President Barack Obama’s most frequently repeated health care reform claim — “If you like your present health insurance, you can keep it” — sounds about as credible these days as the finger-wagging Bill Clinton did when he said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” On Tuesday, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Massachusetts dropped its Medicare Advantage program, leaving 22,000 senior citizens to find other coverage to take care of expenses not paid by Medicare. Harvard Pilgrim said the decision to drop its Medicare Advantage program resulted from the company’s concern for “the long-term viability of Medicare Advantage programs ... We know that cuts in Medicare are being used to fund national health care reform.” In fact, the $145 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts are routinely used by Obama and his spinmeisters to pay for yet another Obamacare fiction, that their masterpiece will reduce the federal budget deficit.
In 2003, 5.3 million Americans were enrolled in Medicare Advantage. Today, there are 11.3 million, or 24 percent of all Medicare enrollees. On average, Medicare only covers about 60 percent of health care costs. Medicare Advantage was designed to help fill the gap for those that can’t afford conventional supplemental coverage. Most of Obama’s Medicare Advantage cuts will hit those with incomes of less than $32,400 per year, according to a recent Heritage Foundation study. The Heritage study also projects 7.4 million more seniors will be forced out of Medicare Advantage within four years.
Obamacare also creates a panel of unelected bureaucrats known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) whose sole job will be to cap Medicare spending by lowering already untenable reimbursement rates that have prompted doctors to turn away new Medicare patients. The savings from IPAB and the gutting of Medicare Advantage will be diverted to help pay for other parts of Obamacare. As a result, Medicare reimbursement rates are expected to dip in four years to below those of Medicaid, a program that promises free care to the poor but often fails to deliver due to inadequate reimbursements to care providers.
Obama announced that Medicare Advantage premiums would drop only 1 percent next year. That wasn’t nearly enough reassurance for Harvard Pilgrim to keep its Medicare Advantage plan in force, nor will it keep more companies from dropping their programs in coming days. Meanwhile, Obama is blowing more tax dollars on a television propaganda campaign featuring Andy Griffith telling seniors “Medicare just got stronger.” Too bad Sheriff Andy of Mayberry isn’t around to arrest Medicare Andy and his White House enabler for fraudulent advertising.