September 24, 2009

Crapo Warns Of Costs To Seniors, States

60,000 Idaho seniors could lose benefits of Medicare Advantage program

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said today that senior citizens and state taxpayers will feel the pain if health care reforms envisioned in the Senate Finance Committee are approved by Congress. Crapo, a member of the Finance Committee, charges the legislation could hurt senior citizens who enjoy coverage under the popular Medicare Advantage program because that program may be cut by $113 billion under the present proposal.

Crapo offered an amendment to the bill today that would have stopped the reductions in Medicare Advantage if those changes result in less competition and choice in the insurance marketplace. He noted that Medicare Advantage saw a whopping 426% increase in enrollment between 2003 and 2007 because the program is popular, especially in rural areas where patients have limited access to and choices for health care. "My amendment seeks to preserve that choice," Crapo said, but the amendment was voted down over technical objections.

"President Obama said 'if you like your present insurance, you can keep it,' but that won't be the case for seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage," Crapo added, noting that enrollees in that program will lose half their current Medicare Advantage benefits if the present bill before the committee passes without further amendment. "There are 60,000 people in Idaho enrolled in Medicare Advantage-that's 27 percent of the Medicare population in Idaho. Those affected by these cuts are 20 percent of the Medicare population nationwide," he added. "That is not an insignificant proportion of our seniors who will either see a loss in benefits or have to switch to another program. That is not keeping your present insurance as the President proposed."

The director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Douglas Elmendorf, has acknowledged that seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage will lose benefits under the plan. Because the legislation has not been detailed, the CBO can't offer a fair cost analysis.

Rushing the bill through will also be disastrous for states, Crapo said. Cuts to the Medicare program by $500 billion will result in higher costs for the states partnering in the program-costs that will be passed along to state taxpayers. Crapo said the overall health care bill could total $1.7 trillion over the full ten years of implementing the program.

"Then there are the costs to those who are happy with their existing insurance," Crapo noted. "The taxes called for in this bill will be passed along-in the form of higher premiums, higher costs for medical devices and potentially layoffs from employers dealing with higher taxes.

"The markup in Committee has shown that people will not be able to keep the health care they now have. One of the most popular programs for seniors, particularly in rural areas, will be negatively impacted under this bill," he added.