Democrats will likely attempt to trumpet a GAO report released today regarding Medicare Advantage enrollment for 2011 as claiming that the Medicare Advantage program will be unaffected by Obamacare. (The report is not yet online, but should be posted here in the coming hours.) While Democrats’ newfound interest in the Medicare Advantage program is certainly welcome, if perhaps a tad cynical, the claims are both incomplete and misleading. First, less than one percent of Obamacare’s cuts to MA actually went into effect in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Second, as the Associated Press previously reported, Medicare Advantage figures for 2012 are likely to be skewed due to bonuses paid out by a temporary, multi-billion dollar demonstration/waiver program – one that even Democrats admitted was implemented because Medicare “could not tolerate dislocation, given the political climate.” (See our full write-up of this issue from back in September here.) In other words, the Medicare Advantage program is NOT immune from Obamacare cuts – it merely won a temporary reprieve while the President campaigns for re-election.
As we previously reported, both CBO and the Medicare trustees found that Medicare Advantage enrollment is still projected to decline, just that enrollment won’t start falling until 2013, after the President runs for re-election. (Think that timing is a coincidence?) Another report released last month also demonstrated how Medicare Advantage plan enrollment will decrease across the country thanks to Obamacare. The study found that Medicare Advantage enrollment will be cut in half by 2017 thanks to Obamacare, and that plan choices will be reduced by two-thirds, with an average of almost 18 fewer MA plans being offered in each county.
As Speaker Pelosi recently admitted, Democrats “took a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare in [Obamacare], the health care bill” to pay for more unsustainable new entitlements. The idea that this level of payment reductions will not have an effect on beneficiaries defies logic. And given that this month’s Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll found that only 22 percent of Americans believe Obamacare will make Medicare better off – an all-time low – the American people don’t seem to be buying this fiscal sleight-of-hand either.