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Rep. John Lewis Supports Fair Payment to All Medicare Insurers

July 25, 2007
Press Release

Yesterday, two health insurance company lobbyists tried to stage a bogus media event outside of Congressman Lewis’s district office to scare seniors about proposed changes to the Medicare Advantage program.  Other members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee have been subjected to a misinformation campaign launched by health insurance companies to pressure them from voting for changes to the Medicare Advantage program.  When questioned by Lewis staffers yesterday, many of the seniors had no idea who had asked them to come to the so-called rally or why they were there. Some even complained about their Medicare Advantage service.

“This is a shameful attempt to frighten the most vulnerable citizens,” said Rep. Lewis, “Seniors have paid their dues and deserve our deepest respect for the service they have given to our society.  They should not have to worry about whether their benefits will be available when they need them, and that is what Congress is trying to insure.  The changes to the Medicare Advantage program we propose will not change seniors’ benefits.  They will help preserve the Medicare system and make federal payments to insurance companies fair and equal across the board.” 

In a series of past legislative efforts, including the controversial Medicare Prescription Drug bill, Congress decided to overpay health insurance companies for enrolling seniors in the Medicare Advantage program.  Health insurance companies were paid 12 percent more, amounting to millions of dollars, as an “incentive” to sign up Medicare patients.  This was a back-door means to privatize Medicare and entice seniors to move from traditional Medicare into private health insurance plans.  In Senate and House Congressional hearings testimony from many parties, including the American Association of Retired People (AARP), independent research conducted by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, the Congressional Budget Office, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Families USA, and the Kaiser Family Foundation have all verified that this overpayment is a waste of taxpayer dollars that weakens the Medicare system and increases its insolvency. 

The changes to Medicare Advantage that the House Ways & Means Committee will vote on this week will not affect benefits to seniors at all, but they will require that all federal payments for Medicare beneficiaries, whether in the traditional Medicare program or in the Medicare Advantage program, are the same.  It would gradually end the slush fund health insurers have enjoyed at the taxpayers’ expense and divert those funds to strengthen Medicare benefits for all seniors and support the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a valuable program that is about to expire.  Even though President Bush and some Senate Republicans have vowed to stop these bills, Rep. Lewis and supporters in the House see these changes as government at its best, working for the people, not for special interests.  Rep. Lewis will continue to pursue the kind of policy that preserves Medicare, respects the dignity of all senior citizens, and paves the road toward universal health care. 

A media packet is available on this subject at your request or online.  Please call (202) 225-3801 to request a packet or go to www.house.gov/johnlewis.    

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MEDIA PACKET

Independent Research:

AARP

CENTER FOR BUDGET POLICY

KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION

FAMILIES USA

 Legislative Resources:

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET:

CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE