NAACP Further Explains Stance on Proposed Cuts to Medicare Advantage Plans
The NAACP, which has been lobbying against a proposal that would reduce Medicare Advantage reimbursements to cover the cost of other health care proposals, on Monday "tried to explain its stance ... in the context of its friendly positions on a variety of other health care issues under consideration by the Democratic Congress," The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 5/16).
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) have said that they might reduce reimbursements to private MA plans to cover the cost of other health care proposals. According to some proponents of the cuts, Medicare spends 12% more for beneficiaries in MA plans -- which cover extra benefits, such as vision and hearing tests and treatments -- than for those for the fee-for-service program for equivalent benefits.
In a March 14 letter to House members, Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington, D.C., Bureau, wrote that MA plans "disproportionately provide coverage to low-income and racial and ethnic minority beneficiaries." He added, "By providing more comprehensive benefits and lower cost-sharing than traditional Medicare," MA plans help minorities "gain access to health care services that are critical to their long-term health and well-being" (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 3/16). He added, "Reduced funding for the Medicare Advantage program would have a negative impact on the health and health care of millions of Medicare beneficiaries -- particularly for low-income and minority beneficiaries" (The Hill, 5/16).
The League of United Latin American Citizens National President Rosa Rosales wrote a similar letter (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 3/16).
According to The Hill, NAACP "has taken some flak from [lawmakers] for standing alongside the health insurance industry, a longtime nemesis of Democratic politicians, on Medicare Advantage." The group since March "has been trying to temper its support for Medicare Advantage," The Hill reports.
In an interview with The Hill, Shelton said NAACP supports MA, adding, "It's a good program. It's been very helpful to a lot of people who happen to be African-American." The Hill reports that Shelton also "edged away from his emphasis on the proportion of African-Americans and other minorities in the program," saying, "The vast majority of African-Americans benefit from the traditional Medicare program." NAACP has estimated that 16% of MA beneficiaries are black, which is nearly equal to the percentage of blacks in the U.S., according to Shelton.
Shelton also said that the March letter "is not always being offered in its full context," adding, "In hindsight, I wish I had done more to put in the broader context."
In a letter sent Monday to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Baucus, Shelton wrote that NAACP "continues to be a strong advocate for expanded health care coverage for all Americans." He added, "Under the pay-as-you-go rules that currently govern Congress, ... hard decisions will have to be made" (The Hill, 5/16).