Monday, April 23, 2012

Medicare Election Year Politics

Medicare and an election year. Strange bedfellows to say the least. What could be more tailor made for a re-election bid than playing political football with 12 million voters on Medicare?

Add in a political slush fund that does not require Congressional approval or oversight. Money that is controlled by the department of Health and Human Services. Marvelous (unless you are a senior on Medicare).

As the New York Post reports:
The most oppressive aspects of the ObamaCare law don’t kick in until after the 2012 election, when the president will no longer be answerable to voters. More “flexibility,” he recently explained to the Russians.
 But certain voters would surely notice one highly painful part of the law before then — namely, the way it guts the popular Medicare Advantage program.
Still popular, the Medicare Advantage plans have taken hits in recent years causing many seniors to abandon the plans and return to original Medicare and a Medigap plan.
But as part of its hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts, the Obama one-size-fits-all plan slashes reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage starting next year — herding many seniors back into the government-run program.

Medicare open enrollment is an annual occurrence with floating start and ending dates that generally fall in November and December of each year. The annual election period may start after this years presidential election, but seniors will start to get their Annual Notice of Change several weeks before the election.
But the administration’s devised a way to postpone the pain one more year, getting Obama past his last election; it plans to spend $8 billion to temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors in key markets don’t lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama’s re-election bid.

The money is to come from funds that Health and Human Services is allowed to use for “demonstration projects.” But to make it legal, HHS has to pretend that it’s doing an “experiment” to study the effect of this money on the insurance market

Spend $8 billion to "study" something it is already doing.
A Government Accounting Office report released this morning shows, quite starkly, that there simply is no experiment being conducted, just money being spent. Understandably, the GAO recommends that HHS cancel the project.

It must be an election year.

Sounds like business as usual in DC.
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