- Congressman: McAuliffe victory means gun control a winning message
- Clinton aide admits soliciting disgraced D.C. fundraiser; says actions were legal
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
- Obama goes shopping at Gap as minimum-wage thanks
- N.J. woman charged after client dies from black-market butt injections
- CIA chief Brennan ‘determined’ to speak out more this year
- Reset? What reset? U.S.-Russia ties at worst since Cold War
- 9/11 terror recruiter released in Syrian prisoner swap
- D.C. elections board gives green light to marijuana legalization initiative
- Elephants can tell difference between human languages: study
House GOP members berate administration over Medicare bonuses
House Republicans berated the Obama administration Wednesday over a Medicare bonus program deemed wasteful by federal investigators, accusing top health officials of trying to pump extra money into the Medicare Advantage program ahead of the president’s bid for re-election.
The bonus program was included in the 2010 health care law to reward four- and five-star Medicare plans for offering superior benefits, but administration officials soon made it more generous by including three-star plans, which had the effect of spreading out the benefits to more seniors.
Top officials at the two agencies — one nonpartisan, the other headed by Mr. Obama’ political appointees — appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday morning to argue their case, summoned by Chairman Darrell E. Issa.
While Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, insisted there’s proof that the bonuses are already working, Mr. Issa accused him of trying to hide flaws in the Affordable Care Act by putting off unpopular Medicare cuts.
And Mr. Issa said CMS is wasting $8.3 billion in taxpayer funds, the estimated 10-year cost of the revised program.
“What seniors need to understand is the $8.3 billion you’re taking is because Obamacare was screwed up,” the California Republican told Mr. Blum. “At least be honest and tell the truth here.”
Mr. Blum said the bonus program is helping the administration accomplish key goals of encouraging plans to cut costs and improve benefits. While only 7 percent of seniors are presently enrolled in a five-star Medicare plan, the eventual goal is to make sure every senior has access to a top-rated plan, he said.
Under the original rules, plans covering about one-third of Medicare Advantage enrollees would have been eligible for bonuses, but under the administration’s revisions, about 90 percent of enrollees are in qualifying plans. GAO health care team director James Cosgrove acknowledged that could reduce incentives.
“It certainly does reward plans that enroll about 90 percent of beneficiaries, and in that sense it also lessens the incentive for plans to move up, that’s correct,” Mr. Cosgrove said.
And Republicans charged that the administration spent more money than authorized by Congress, even though federal law already gives Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius authority to experiment with ways to make Medicare more effective.
“Based on your experience of past demonstration projects, is there any reason that this plan couldn’t be done on a much smaller scale and thus be as effective for less money?” Mr. Issa asked Mr. Cosgrove.
“No,” Mr. Cosgrove replied. “That’s what we think a well-designed demonstration would be to start small without spending over $8 billion.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- A familiar fading feeling for McMahon in Connecticut
- Romney’s bid to undo health law faces hurdles
- Hill GOP presses Medicare probe
- Romney, Obama advisors butt heads over binders, Big Bird and “Romnesia”
- Outsiders abide by rules in Brown-Warren race
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
An America drowning in red ink is the land of the free no more
- Inside the Beltway: A new interest in Rahm Emanuel for 2016?
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- David Jolly wins in Florida, GOP keeps swing district seat
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to 'man up' in horse carriage fight
- Brennan: Russia 'absolutely' could invade eastern Ukraine
- Joel Osteen church victimized in $600K theft
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again