For-profit insurers again flex lobbying muscle

By Sandra Fox
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 7, 2013

Thanks to Steve Twedt and the Post-Gazette for the front-page coverage of the Medicare Advantage reversal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("Medicare Payment Cut Reversed," April 3).

It is a story of the influence of the private for-profit insurance industry and its well-paid lobbyists in Washington who were able to reverse the government's decision to reduce subsidies of private so-called "Medicare Advantage" plans. Now, instead of a planned 2.2 percent reduction, subsidies will increase by 3.3 percent. The U.S. government has been spending an average of 13 percent more per patient for Medicare recipients who chose one of the private Medicare Advantage options, as compared to those who opt for traditional Medicare. Now, the difference will be 16.3 percent more. So, how is this cutting waste out of Medicare?

If the government decides to make smart decisions on removing waste from Medicare, we can stop subsidizing the insurance industry altogether. Not only would we save billions of dollars a year, but we also would eliminate the restrictions on choice of doctors and hospitals imposed by health insurers.

Another way we can remove waste from Medicare is to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies, as Medicaid and the VA already do.

Finally, we can pass "Expanded and Improved Medicare for All," HR 676, which would implement these reforms, and use the savings to improve coverage, eliminate co-pays and deductibles, and cover all of us -- cradle to grave.

Sandra Fox is co-chair, Western PA Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare ( She resides in Squirrel Hill, Pa.