Insurance changes are unsettling
To the editor:
The Wall Street Journal reported that private insurance provider United Health is dropping thousands of doctors from its Medicare Advantage networks. Medicare Advantage is very popular with senior citizens, but United Health says that “government cuts” will “leave many elderly patients unsure whether they need to switch plans to continue seeing their doctors.”
The insurer said in October that underfunding of Medicare Advantage plans for the elderly could not be fully offset by the company’s other health care business. The company also reported spending more health care premiums on medical claims in the third quarter, due mainly to government cuts to payments for Medicare Advantage services.
The Journal report said that doctors in at least 10 states were notified of being laid off the plans, some citing “significant changes and pressures in the health care environment.” According to the notices, the terminations can be appealed within 30 days.
Obama promised every American they could keep their doctor under Obamacare. This is another promise not being kept (another lie), this time for legions of senior citizens. United Health President Austin Pittman attributed the decision to drop all these doctors directly to Obamacare: “Financial pressures from the U.S. government are pushing United Health Group to drop thousands of doctors. That’s what’s driving our actions. It’s no secret that we are under substantial funding pressure from the federal government,” he said.
Democrats and the media will do their best to claim that Obamacare had nothing to do with the decision by United Health to drop thousands of doctors, but that is just not going to fly. The American people know that Obamacare was built to be the great health care disruptor. And, senior citizens know that in order to pay for Obamacare, Democrats raided more than $700 billion from Medicare, most of it from Medicare Advantage.
Medicare Advantage, an alternative to traditional Medicare, combines hospital and doctor coverage and often includes prescription drugs. Enrollment has more than doubled since 2004 to 13 million in 2012, which represents about 27 percent of Americans on Medicare.
The federal government pays private insurers a per-capita fee to manage the benefits. The rate is currently about 12 percent more than the average Medicare patient spends annually. The Obama administration plans to cut those extra payments to insurers by about $150 billion during the next 10 years to help pay for the health law. Some experts expect enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans to decline sharply if that occurs.
Because Obama deleted the employer mandate, the worst of Obamacare has not yet hit. We are only at the beginning of a rolling catastrophe. Once the employment market gets walloped next year, a few million people having their insurance canceled and a few million senior citizens losing their doctors will have us longing for the good old days.