When Senate leaders announced a bipartisan deal that would end the partial government shutdown, Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz held a media availability and issued a press release to say he opposed — but would not block — the agreement.
He said he would oppose the Senate compromise because it does nothing to help “the millions of Americans who are being harmed by Obamacare,” singling out some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations…(T)his is what he said in a written statement issued on October 16, 2013:
As a result of Obamacare, families of special needs children will face a new penalty for using savings to pay for medical therapies and health-related expenses.
We asked the senator’s office for information on the statements he made about the impact of the law on seniors and special needs children. Let’s start with senior citizens, beginning with the claim that seniors are “losing their health insurance.”
The senator’s office referred us to a recent analysis by the consulting company Avalere of Medicare Advantage plans that will be available to seniors for 2014. The consulting firm’s report found that the number of plans available to seniors in 2014 would “dip modestly” from 2,664 to 2,522, a decline of 5.3 percent. The open enrollment period began on Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, so Cruz is no doubt right that some seniors have been told that their insurance plan is no longer part of the Medicare Advantage program.
However, a drop in the number of plans does not mean a drop in the number of persons covered.
In fact, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the number of persons enrolled in MA plans rose by nearly 10 percent this year, compared with 2012. A total of 14.4 million persons now are covered by MA plans, more than ever before.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says that trend will continue. In a Sept. 19 press release, the CMS said “for the fourth straight year enrollment is projected to increase” in 2014. CMS spokesman Raymond Thorn told us in an email that enrollment “is projected to grow to 14.995 million in 2014,” an increase of 4.7 percent over this year.
This is exactly contrary to the predictions at the time of the law’s enactment. KFF notes: “Since 2010, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has grown by 30 percent in spite of concerns that the payment changes enacted in the 2010 Affordable Care Act would lead to significant reductions in enrollment.”
In fact, as Affordable Care Act critic Alyene Senger of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote recently, “It is not yet known how MA plans will react to Obamacare’s significant reductions or how beneficiaries will respond to any changes made by MA plans.” But that hasn’t stopped Cruz from saying seniors are losing coverage. His office even cites Senger’s article as supporting that claim, perhaps hoping that we would not actually read it.
Allyson Funk, a spokeswoman for the AARP, did not express concern about the slight dip in MA plans. She said there “will remain broad penetration and availability of MA plans” in 2014. Funk also noted that Medicare Advantage premiums have gone down, “while quality has improved,” since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. CMS says the average premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are down by 9.8 percent since the health care legislation became law.