Regular Medicare is what provides health care for many seniors, but in Wisconsin, an alternative called Medicare Advantage has grown to a third of the market. The federal government says the program continues to grow despite cuts that critics contend will cause private insurers to stop coverage.
Congressional Republicans are expected to renew their attacks on health reform in a hearing Friday. Their focus: cuts to Medicare Advantage designed to bring costs down to the level of traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage is a broader, but more expensive, plan. A national trade group called America's Health Insurance Plans predicts seniors in this program will face higher costs because private insurers are getting less money from the federal government. However, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department says premiums for Medicare Advantage have fallen by 10 percent and enrollment is up.
These growth trends are also occurring in Wisconsin says Chris Abbott. He is regional vice president with UnitedHealthCare, the nation's largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans. He says cuts have not had an effect yet, "It is making us pedal harder as Medicare Advantage and Part D plan providers. But at UnitedHealthCare we are focused at maintaining the lowest premium for members and adjusting the benefits depending on the rates we're getting from the federal government."
President Obama and Democrats backed cuts to Medicare Advantage after a federal review showed the government was paying 14 percent more per person for that program compared to regular Medicare.