This vote was on a motion to send a bill that would overhaul the health care system back to the Finance Committee for a rewrite (known as “motion to recommit”). John McCain, R-Ariz., wanted the committee to ensure that Medicare Advantage plans were not cut. The motion was made to a bill that would overhaul the health insurance system, create a public health insurance option and impose requirements on insurance companies.
Medicare Advantage is an HMO plan – where a person receives comprehensive health care coverage, but must use a certain pre-approved network of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. It is slightly more comprehensive than traditional Medicare “fee for service” plans, but also costs more money.
Groups such as the AARP have been pushing Congress to cut funding for Medicare Advantage, which is administered by for-profit managed care companies. Critics of the plan say these insurance companies jack up prices for the plan, which costs the government extra. Medicare Advantage, on average, receives about 12 percent more than what is paid under traditional fee-for-service care, according to the House Budget Committee.
John McCain, R-Ariz., said the underlying health care overhaul would cut useful benefits for seniors on Medicare Advantage plans unnecessarily.
“This allows our senior citizens to have dental, vision, hearing, and physical fitness care, and that is a little strange because, as was pointed out to me, that is exactly what we have here in the Senate. About 100 paces from here, if I need some doctor care immediately, if I need some vision care, if I need some dental care, I can get it,” McCain said. “Let me get this straight. Again, the American people should understand this. We voted to cut drastically a program that seniors have taken advantage of, which gives them additional hearing, vision, dental, and physical fitness care, while we practice it here every single day.”
Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said his state has the highest percentage of older people in Medicare Advantage, and suggested that he of all people had an incentive to ensure that the program wasn’t harmed.
“Not all Medicare Advantage is created equal. Some of Medicare Advantage is a model of efficiency, and some of it is pretty much a rip-off of both taxpayers and seniors,” Wyden said. “It has been possible to show you can find savings in the Medicare Advantage program without harming older people, without reducing their guaranteed benefits, their essential benefits, as we have learned, with Medicare Advantage. The way Chairman Baucus goes about doing that is by forcing the inefficient Medicare Advantage plans to follow the model of the efficient ones.”
By a vote of 41-57, the motion was rejected. Every Republican present voted for the motion. All but two Democrats present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to send a health care overhaul bill back to the committee was rejected, and the bill’s cuts to certain Medicare Advantage programs was retained.