The House Committee on Ways & Means held a hearing last week on "The Health Care Law's Impact on Medicare and Its Beneficiaries," featuring testimony from CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., and CMS Chief Actuary Richard Foster. Berwick testified that the PPACA has had a positive impact on Medicare beneficiaries, noting that beneficiaries now have first-dollar coverage of key preventive benefits, additional assistance with prescription drug costs, and an annual wellness visit with the physician of their choice. In response to concerns noted by several committee members about the impact of funding cuts on Medicare Advantage, Berwick indicated that Medicare Advantage enrollment increased by 6 percent from 2010 to 2011. He suggested that the program is healthy and offers robust choices. Foster's testimony reiterated his prior projection that the PPACA will cause Medicare Advantage enrollment to decline by about 50 percent by 2017 -- from a projected 14.5 million under the pre-PPACA law to 7.3 million under the new law. His testimony further explained that Medicare Advantage enrollees will experience "a large increase in out-of-pocket costs" and "less generous benefit packages" because PPACA will reduce rebates to Medicare Advantage plans, with the reduction in rebates reaching $1,500 per beneficiary by 2019.
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