Wall Street Journal Addresses Medicare Bill Opinion Piece
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday published two letters to the editor in response to an opinion piece about a bill (HR 6331) approved last month by the House that would delay a scheduled 10.6% reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements and reduce funds for Medicare Advantage. The opinion piece, written by Scott Gottlieb, a former CMS official and an American Enterprise Institute fellow, appeared on June 24. Summaries of the letters appear below.
* Nancy Nielsen: Traditional Medicare "withers on the vine at the expense of access to care for the 80% of seniors and disabled who rely on the program," and, despite "naysayers' claims," the bill would not "cut Medicare Advantage benefits to seniors," Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. The legislation would "simply make common sense changes to allow these plans to work better and ensure that vital Medicare dollars are going to patient care," Nielsen writes.
According to Nielsen, many "physicians are added to Medicare Advantage plans unknowingly," and the bill would "provide more transparency and ensure that insurers form a real network of physicians, rather than 'deeming' them participants because they treat one patient who is part of a plan." The legislation also would eliminate duplicate payments to MA plans for medical education, she writes. "The extra funds that threaten the long-term health of the Medicare program are too often just another bonus for insurers -- at the expense of patient care," Nielsen writes, adding, "As supporters of Medicare Advantage programs cry wolf, the Medicare payment cut goes into effect in July and will force physicians to make the difficult decision to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practices" (Nielsen, Wall Street Journal, 7/3).
* Judith Stein: Much "more is needed to pay for long-term care," but Medicare "does not push people into nursing homes" as Gottlieb maintains, Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, writes in a Journal letter to the editor. "Medicare's home health benefit covers nurses and home health aides for people who meet coverage criteria for as long as it is medically necessary," but "Medicare's nursing home coverage is only for 100 days," according to Stein (Stein, Wall Street Journal, 7/3).
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