Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is criticizing what he describes as “advocacy” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for private Medicare plans.
A briefing that CMS officials held before a recent House Ways and Means Committee subcommittee hearing on Medicare Advantage fee-for-service plans promoted the point of view that “access to benefits is at stake if Medicare Advantage funding is cut,” Baucus, D-Mont., writes in a letter addressed to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.
The officials who led the CMS Medicare Advantage private FFS briefing, Acting CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk and Abby Block, director of the CMS Center for Beneficiary Choices, and the documents the officials presented failed to explain that the plan administrators, not Congress, determine the level of extra benefits that the plans can provide, Baucus writes in the letter.
Only the level of the extra benefits would be affected by the proposed funding cuts, Baucus writes.
“I find it inappropriate that CMS, or any executive branch agency, would lobby in response to anticipated congressional action,” Baucus writes. “State-level MA information was shared with the press, but not offered to members of Congress or their staffs in advance” of the briefing.
“The Finance Committee has yet to consider legislation to reduce MA funding, making the preemptive nature of CMS’ action that much more unseemly,” Baucus writes.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has recommended that Congress lower Medicare Advantage payment rates, and much of the House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing focused on the overpayment made by Medicare to private fee-for-service plans.