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Senate Blocks 2 Medicare Advantage Amendments

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Republicans failed this week in efforts to pass 2 amendments that could have affected the Medicare Advantage program.

The Republicans tried to attach the amendments to the budget resolution, a document that is supposed to guide Congress when it starts budget negotiations later this year.

Although the budget resolution does not directly affect appropriations, Senate rules let appropriations bills that follow budget resolution guidelines pass the Senate via majority votes.

Under regular order, a bill needs 60 votes to get through the Senate without running the risk of facing a filibuster.

Members of the Senate voted 50-49 against Amendment Number 508.

Amendment Number 508, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would have protected the Medicare Advantage program by establishing a budget-neutral reserve fund, to keep Congress from implementing improvements in Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Plans in a way that would lead to fewer coverage choices for Medicare beneficiaries.

The amendment also would have mandated that administrators of these programs not reduce the benefits of beneficiaries who happen to belong to Medicare Advantage plans.

Members of the Senate voted 52-44 against Amendment Number 472.

Amendment Number 472, offered by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., would have increased Medicare Part D prescription drug premiums for individuals earning more than $80,000 a year and couples earning more than $160,000.

In related news, Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said this week during a forum organized by America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, that he opposes Democrats’ proposals to prune what Democrats say is a 12% subsidiary that private carriers get for providing managed care coverage for Medicare Advantage program members.

Cutting managed care payments to insurers serving the elderly is part of a broader effort by some lawmakers to get the federal government to run health care, Leavitt said.

“There are those who want the government to do the market’s job,” Leavitt said. “They want to steer Americans into a government-run, one-size-fits-all plan.”


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