Feb 13, 2019 - Health

Congress stumps for Medicare Advantage plans

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Medicare Advantage is getting more popular on Capitol Hill. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Almost 70% of Congress signed onto new letters backing Medicare Advantage, the growing alternative to traditional Medicare that collects $250 billion of taxpayer funding.

The bottom line: In what has become an annual tradition, members of Congress praised Medicare Advantage plans' out-of-pocket caps and vision benefits — but did not mention the program's tradeoffs and concerns, like narrower networks of doctors and the controversial billing practices that have led to inflated payments.

How it works: These letters from House and Senate members follow a lobbying ritual.

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposes new Medicare Advantage payments and policies every January, and the health insurance industry gathers bipartisan signatures of support for the program before the final regulation comes out in April.

Where it stands: This may be the most congressional support Medicare Advantage has ever gotten, and it crosses party lines.

Yes, but: The program faces a lots of scrutiny. The federal government recently signaled it wants to audit Medicare Advantage companies and claw back money that was improperly paid to plans.

Just 2 Democratic presidential candidates signed the letter: Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

  • Other Democratic candidates have endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All" bill, which would eliminate Medicare Advantage and other private plans and create one national plan.
Go deeper