This vote was on an amendment by Dave Camp, R-Mich., that would prohibit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from implementing any policy that would prohibit a current beneficiary of Medicare from enrolling in the Medicare Advantage program. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Labor, Health and Education departments in fiscal 2008.
Medicare Advantage is an HMO plan – where a person receives comprehensive health care coverage, but must use a certain pre-approved network of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. It is slightly more comprehensive than traditional Medicare “fee for service” plans, but also costs more money.
Groups such as the AARP have been pushing Congress to cut funding for Medicare Advantage, which is administered by for-profit managed care companies. Medicare Advantage, on average, receives about 12 percent more than what is paid under traditional fee-for-service care, according to the House Budget Committee. AARP has argued that these insurance companies, not patients, benefit from the higher service costs. However, some minority groups, such as the NAACP and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), argue that Medicare Advantage provides greater benefits for low-income and minority patients.
"Vulnerable beneficiaries choose Medicare Advantage over traditional Medicare because it’s often cheaper and comes with better benefits than traditional Medicare, like disease management programs and preventive care. Low-income seniors are more likely to enroll in Medicare Advantage, relying on the program’s lower copayments and free preventive care. Medicare Advantage plans saved beneficiaries an average of $86 per month, compared to what they would have spent in traditional Medicare," Camp said.
David Obey, D-Wis., said this is a difficult topic that should not be handled on a bill that is meant only to spend money.
"This is certainly not within the jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee. It most certainly is within the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. I don’t think, given the sensitivity of it, that it ought to be handled in this manner," Obey said. "My understanding is also that the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees are both highly concerned about this amendment. And under these circumstances, I think it would be highly ill-advised for the House to adopt this amendment at this time."
By a vote of 192-228, the amendment was rejected. All but three Democrats present voted against the amendment (Christopher Carney of Pennsylvania, Ron Klein of Florida and Tim Mahoney of Florida). All but six Republicans present voted for the amendment. The end result is that an amendment that would have prohibited the government from preventing Medicare beneficiaries from enrolling in the Medicare Advantage program was defeated.