- - Thursday, March 23, 2023

President Joe Biden said during his recent State of the Union speech that Republicans had a proposal to cut entitlement programs. When he said that, Republicans rose in anger and heckled the President. What President Biden left out of his speech is that he has his own plan to cut a popular entitlement program, Medicare Advantage, because the program uses private companies to provide services that the Medicare program does not deliver.

Some on the left forget that Medicare Advantage is part of an entitlement program, Medicare. Proposing changes to Medicare Advantage that result in cuts is a cut to an entitlement program, any way you slice it. The Biden Administration has started the process to cut this popular entitlement program. At the same time, they have demonized the Republican Party as a whole for a proposal that the Senator who proposed the plan has made clear will not cut any entitlement programs. The only real proposal on the table that will slash a program that provides health care benefits to Americans is being pushed by the Biden Administration – not Republicans.

Medicare Advantage is a program that, by some estimates, covers over 30 million Americans. This is about half of the number of people in the Medicare program. The Medicare Advantage program provides funding to private companies that set up plans on a fixed payment for each individual enrolled. The companies then provide that cash to providers of medical services that can range from eye care to hearing and dental coverage – even some plans offer gym memberships. All these services are not currently covered by traditional Medicare plans. Medicare Advantage plans are popular because they offer more services and high-quality care at a price that is affordable to seniors. This program has lowered overall costs because the plans are more cost-effective than seniors staying in the traditional Medicare plans.

The left hates these plans because they use the private sector to implement a managed competition model that is anathema to the idea of a wholly government-run health care system.  Many of the far left despise the idea of private insurance companies contracting with the federal government, because it undermines the idea of forcing a one-size-fits-all ‘Medicare for All’ plan on every American citizen.

The irony is that the Biden Administration and leaders of both parties in Congress have consistently voiced support for the Medicare Advantage program. Moderate Democrats have expressed strong support for retaining the program as is. A bipartisan letter led by Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Tim Scott (R-SC) expressed “bipartisan support for the Medicare Advantage program and the high-quality care it provides” with none of the objections held by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Democratic Socialist wing of the party. Other moderate Democrats like Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and newly elected Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) all joined a number of Republicans expressing opposition to any changes to the program.

The Biden plan was mapped out on February 1, 2023, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in a notice of changes to the program. This move by CMS would make changes to the program that would effectively cut if the Biden Administration went through with the proposed changes. A group called the Better Medicare Alliance argued in a memo issued on February 7, 2023, “the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just proposed BILLIONS in cuts to Medicare Advantage—impacting over 30 million seniors and people with disabilities. Quietly announced last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this cut means higher premiums, more out-of-pocket costs, benefits eliminated, and fewer choices for over 30 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who chose Medicare Advantage.”  

The solution is for Americans who love their Medicare Advantage plans to fight back and push back against plans to sabotage this popular program. If President Biden runs for re-election in 2024, voters should keep an eye on this proposed cut to an entitlement program and not let him get away with accusing Republicans of cutting entitlement programs when he is the one proposing a big cut.

  • Peter Mihalick is former legislative director and counsel to former Reps. Barbara Comstock, Virginia Republican, and Rodney Blum, Iowa Republican.

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