House panel OKs bill aimed at protecting Medicare Advantage plans

The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the Seniors Health Care Plan Protection Act (H.R. 2506) on Tuesday, introduced by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), which would preserve Medicare Advantage plans used by senior citizens.

The Obama administration has threatened to terminate certain plans that don’t meet Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) standards.

“Medicare Advantage plans have a proven track record of improving health outcomes, reducing costs and offering much-needed personal choice to seniors,” Buchanan said. “I am fully committed to strengthening and preserving this vitally important program anyway we can.”

Buchanan’s bill essentially would block the Obama administration from discontinuing the targeted Medicare Advantage plans, which could put up to 10,000 senior citizens in Buchanan’s district alone at risk of losing their coverage. The administration has warned that it may completely terminate selected plans that do not meet the CMS Five-Star rating system’s quality standards. The majority of the plans at risk serve low-income individuals who are in poor health.

“In speaking with seniors and health care providers throughout my district, it is clear that there is ample room for improvement in Medicare Advantage’s STARS rating system,” Buchanan added. “While we work to improve this flawed rating system, my bill ensures that seniors in the program can continue to receive care from the doctor of their choice.”

Buchanan, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, was joined by co-sponsors U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and the vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), in introducing the bill, which is scheduled for a full House vote this month.