Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., has criticized Bush administration opposition to efforts to give states authority over Medicare Advantage plan marketing practices.

Stark, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee Health Subcommittee, has put out a statement calling Bush “a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.”

“How else to explain his opposition to enabling states to investigate and prosecute private insurance companies that deceive seniors?” Stark asks.

Members of Congress are working in a bipartisan fashion to prevent Medicare Advantage plan marketers from misrepresenting their products, Stark says.

“Instead of defending big insurance companies that contributed to his campaigns, President Bush should join Congress to protect America’s seniors and people with disabilities,” Stark says.

Stark was reacting to press reports indicating that the administration has balked at giving states additional oversight over the Medicare Advantage program in talks with Senate Finance Committee staffers.

The Senate Finance Committee is preparing to unveil bipartisan Medicare legislation that would avert a Medicare physician pay cut mandated by the current budget.

The bipartisan package apparently includes provisions that could give states some role in overseeing Medicare Advantage plan marketing, The package also could include a provision that would attempt to reduce the difference between what Medicare pays for traditional Medicare program beneficiaries and those enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program.

Earlier this year, both the House and the Senate held hearings on allegations of abusive Medicare Advantage plan marketing practices.