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Servicemembers Home Ownership Tax Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COBURN. I would respond to the Senator from Arizona in the following way. First of all, they won't understand that language. But more importantly, if you look at the law, there is Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, Medicare Part C, and Medicare Part D. They are all law. They are all law. What is guaranteed under the law today is that if you want Medicare Advantage, you can have it. What is going to change is that we are going to take away that guarantee. We are going to modify Medicare Part C, which is Medicare Advantage.

So we have this confusing way of saying we are not taking away any of your guaranteed benefits, but in fact, under the current law today, Medicare Advantage is guaranteed to anybody who wants to sign up for it. So it is duplicitous to say we are not cutting your benefits, when in fact we are.

Let me speak to my experience and then I will yield to my colleague from Wyoming, who is an orthopedic surgeon.

What is good about Medicare Advantage? We hear it is a money pot to pay for a new program for other people. Here is what is good about it. We get coordinated care for poor Medicare folks. Medicare Advantage coordinates the care. When you coordinate care, what you do is you decrease the number of tests, you prevent hospitalizations, you get better outcomes, and consequently you have healthier seniors.

So when it is looked at, Medicare Advantage doesn't cost more. It actually saves Medicare money on an individual basis. Because if you forgo the interests of a hospital, where you start incurring costs, what you have done is saved the Medicare Trust Fund but you have also given better care.

The second point I wish to make is that many people on Medicare Advantage cannot afford to buy Medicare supplemental policies. Ninety-four percent of the people in this country who are on Medicare and not Medicare Advantage are buying a supplemental policy. Why is that? Because the basic underlying benefit package of Medicare is not adequate. So here we have this group of people who are benefitted because they have chosen a guaranteed benefit of Medicare Part C, and all of a sudden we are saying: Time out. You don't get that anymore.

Mr. McCAIN. So a preponderance of people who enroll in Medicare Advantage are low-income people, and a lot of them are rural residents?

Mr. COBURN. A lot of them are rural. I don't know the income levels, but I know there is a propensity for actually getting a savings, because you don't have to buy a supplemental policy if you are on Medicare Advantage.

Mr. BARRASSO. I would add to that, following on my colleague from Oklahoma, that there is the coordinated care, which is one of the advantages of Medicare Advantage, but there is also the preventive component of this. We talk about ways to help people keep their health care costs down, and that has to do with coordinated care and preventing illness.

Mr. COBURN. And we heard from the freshman Democrats that they want to put a new preventive package into the program. Yet they want to take the preventive package out of Medicare Advantage. It is an interesting mix of amendments, isn't it?

Mr. BARRASSO. We want to keep our seniors healthy. That is one way they can stay out of the hospital, out of the nursing home, and stay active. Yet with the cuts in Medicare Advantage, the Democrats have voted to do that--to cut all the money out of this program that seniors like. Eleven million American seniors who depend upon Medicare for their health care choose this because there is an advantage to them.

My colleague from Oklahoma, the other physician in the Senate, has talked, as I have, extensively about patient-centered health care--not insurance centered, not government centered. Medicare Advantage helps keep it patient centered. So when I see deals being cut behind closed doors where they are cutting out people from all across the country and providing sweetheart deals to help seniors on Medicare Advantage in Florida in order to encourage one Member of the Senate to vote a certain way, I have to ask myself: What about the seniors in the rest of the country, whether it is Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Arizona?

A lot of seniors have great concern, and I would hope they would call up and say this is wrong; we need to know what is going on, and to ask why it is there is a sweetheart deal for one selected Senator from one State when we want to have that same advantage; and why are the Democrats voting to eliminate all this Medicare money.

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Mr. COBURN. I wonder if the Senator is aware, in Alabama, there will be 181,000 people who will get a Medicare Advantage cut; in California, 1,606,000 seniors are going to have benefits cut; Colorado, 198,000; Georgia, 176,000; Illinois, 176,000; Indiana, 148,000; Kentucky, 110,000; Louisiana, 151,000; Massachusetts, 200,000; Michigan, 406,000--that is exactly what Michigan needs right now, isn't it, for their seniors to have their benefits cut--Minnesota, 284,000; Missouri, 200,000; Nevada, 104,000; New Jersey, 156,000; New York, 853,000; Ohio, 499,000; Oregon, 250,000; Pennsylvania--maybe, maybe not because they may have the deal--865,000; Tennessee, 233,000; Washington State, 225,000; Wisconsin, 243,000.

I ask unanimous consent that the list of what the enrollment is by CMS on Medicare and Medicare Advantage enrollment, as of August 2009, be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD

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Mr. CORNYN. What is the consequence of seniors losing Medicare Advantage and being forced onto a Medicare fee-for-service program?

Mr. COBURN. Limited prevention screening, no coordinated care, loss of access to certain drugs, loss of accessory things, such as vision and hearing supplementals, but, more importantly, poorer health outcomes. That is what it is going to mean--or a much smaller checkbook, one or the other. A smaller checkbook because now the government isn't going to pay for it--you are--or poorer health outcomes. If your checkbook is limited, the thing that happens is, you will get the poorer health outcome.

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Mr. McCAIN. So seniors, by losing Medicare Advantage, would then lose certain provisions Medicare Advantage provides and then they would be forced, if they can afford it, which they are now paying zero because it is covered under Medicare Advantage, then they would have to buy Medigap policies that would make up for those benefits they lost when they lose Medicare Advantage.

Guess who offers those Medigap insurance policies. Our friends at AARP, which average $175 a month. We are telling people who are on Medicare Advantage today, when they lose it, they can be guaranteed, if they want to make up for those benefits they are losing, they would be paying $175 a month, minimum, for a Medigap policy. A lot of America's seniors cannot afford that.

Mr. COBURN. That is $2,000 a year.

Mr. McCAIN. They can't afford it.

Mr. COBURN. I will make one other point. Over the next 10 years, 15 million baby boomers are going to go into Medicare. We are taking $465 billion out of Medicare; on the 10-year picture, $1 trillion. So we are going to add $15 million and cut $1 trillion. What do you think is going to happen to the care for everybody in Medicare? The ultimate is, we are going to ration the care for seniors, if this bill comes through.

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