United States Senator Ted Cruz says his “fight against Obamacare must continue,” and so must our fact-checking of claims about the law:
Sen. Ted Cruz, Oct. 16: And it provides no relief to all the seniors…who are right now getting in-the-mail notifications from their health insurance companies that they’re losing their health insurance because of Obamacare…Seniors who are facing higher prescription drug costs as a result of this law won’t be given any consideration, either.
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.