Julia Rock, Jacobin

As Medicare Advantage continues to drive profits for the nation’s major health insurance companies, the industry is lobbying against a provision in the reconciliation bill that could save the government nearly $150 billion over the next decade on a much-needed expansion of the country’s Medicare program and prevent even more money from being funneled to private health insurance companies.

Medicare Advantage — the privatized version of the national health insurance program for people over the age of sixty-five and people with disability status — has become a cash cow for private health insurers. As small- and medium-sized employers struggle to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of health care, private insurers are increasingly expanding into the Medicare Advantage market to buffer their profits.

A provision being considered as part of the reconciliation bill would add dental, vision, and hearing benefits to Medicare without including those benefits in the calculation of the rate at which the federal government reimburses Medicare Advantage plans. Doing so could cut the cost of expanding Medicare benefits by 41 percent, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.

The vast majority of Medicare Advantage plans already provide dental, hearing, and vision benefits. But that hasn’t stopped private insurers and their front group, the Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), from demanding more money from Congress and spending $3 million on advertising campaigns since September to try to ensure their reimbursement rates go up if those benefits are also added to traditional Medicare plans…

stethoscope on pile of money
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