What You Need to Know
- Becerra emphasized that he has had health policy experience.
- He said he would be ready to talk about ways to extend Medicare program solvency.
- Republican senators avoided making harsh attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
A Democratic nominee to be the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary had nice things to say Wednesday about the Medicare Advantage program.
Xavier Becerra — who is the current attorney general of California, and who spent 24 years serving in the U.S. House of Representatives — talked about the program briefly during a hearing on the nomination that was organized by the Senate Finance Committee and streamed live on the web.
“We see that Medicare Advantage gives us an easier chance to create what are called wraparound programs, to reach out to more people with more services,” Becerra said, in response to a question from Sen. Mike Crapo, R-N.D. Crapo is now the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Becerra also appeared at a confirmation hearing Tuesday that was organized by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Senate HELP Committee members focused mainly on topics such as the COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Becerra said at the Senate HELP hearing that he would work to build on the current U.S. health coverage system, and not work to replace it with a single-payer health care system, but he did not talk much about health insurance at that hearing.
A Public-Private Partnership
The Medicare Advantage program gives private insurers and managed care companies a chance to offer an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage, or “Original Medicare,” to the 63 million U.S. residents who are eligible for Medicare coverage. About 25 million Medicare enrollees are in Medicare Advantage plans.
Becerra’s positive words about the Medicare Advantage program were somewhat noteworthy because Becerra has been a supporter of proposals for setting up a single-payer, government-run health care system.
Traditionally, some supporters of single-payer health care proposals have objected to the kind of involvement that private organizations, including for-profit companies, have in the Medicare Advantage program.
President Joseph Biden said repeatedly while he was on the campaign trail that he would work to get more people health coverage mainly by improving and expanding programs that already exist, not by throwing out the current system and replacing it with a single-payer health care system.
Coverage for People Under 65?
Crapo also asked Becerra about his thoughts about commercial health coverage.