The Hill
September 19, 2012

HHS: Health law strengthened Medicare Advantage

Enrollment is up and premiums are down in Medicare Advantage (MA) as a result of the healthcare law, the federal health department reported Wednesday. 

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued projections that MA enrollment will increase by 11 percent over the next year while premiums hold steady. 

Sebelius attributed a 28 percent rise in MA enrollment and 10 percent drop in MA premiums since 2010 to the Affordable Care Act, which remains politically divisive. 

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug programs have been strengthened and continue to improve for beneficiaries," Sebelius said in a statement. 

"Since the law was enacted in 2010, average premiums have gone down, enrollment has gone up, and new benefits and lower drug costs continue to help millions of seniors and people with disabilities." 

The 2010 healthcare law contained cuts to Medicare Advantage that were strongly opposed by Republicans and insurance companies. The program offers care to seniors through private insurers that contract with the Medicare agency, and covers about one-fourth of Medicare's beneficiaries. 

Sebelius's numbers mirror a June report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that enrollment in MA rose by 10 percent this year and that the average premium dropped by $4. 

In 2010, after the healthcare reform law passed, the Obama administration predicted that Medicare Advantage premiums would fall for enrollees as a result of officials' negotiations with insurers.

This ran contrary to the opinions of lawmakers and some policy experts,according to The New York Times.

The law's cuts to the program are expected to save $136 billion over 10 years. A related project, aimed at moderating pain from the cuts with quality bonuses to MA insurers, has been criticized by federal investigators as being wasteful.

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