March 14, 2013
By Matt Cover
(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration is planning new cuts to Medicare, a federal regulatory filing reveals, cuts that could mean higher premiums or seniors losing their coverage altogether.
The new cuts come in the form of a planned reduction in the reimbursement rates the government pays to insurance companies that operate Medicare Advantage plans, which are services administered by private for-profit or non-profit providers that offer additional services than can be found in traditional Medicare.
In a Feb. 15 regulatory filing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the surprised rate cuts of 2.3 percent – meaning it would pay health care providers 2.3 percent less for providing services to patients.
CMS said it was cutting payments because it foresaw the overall costs of the Medicare Advantage program shrinking by 3.2 percent, despite the fact that health care costs – the driver of all federal health care program costs – are only rising.
Medicare Advantage is like traditional Medicare except that its plans are administered by insurance companies, who are paid a per-enrollee reimbursement fee by the government. If insurance companies can provide care to seniors at less than what the government pays them for it, they make a profit.
Medicare Advantage provides coverage for approximately 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, offering them higher-quality services and additional benefits, such as vision and dental care, than the traditional government program at slightly higher cost.