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Fact or fiction? Cuts in some Medicare plans

Claim: Millions of people could lose benefits if Congress cuts the Medicare Advantage program.

Medicare Advantage is a program in which private-sector insurers cover about 10 million older Americans. Recently, the insurance firm Humana contacted enrollees in its Medicare Advantage plans and told them that health care legislation could hurt "millions of seniors" who "could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage plans so valuable." Humana urged enrollees to call their congressional representatives to voice concern about potential cuts. Federal regulators ordered Humana to stop mailing such messages to its enrollees. They warned the firm that it had potentially violated rules for firms doing business with Medicare, by communicating misleading information to enrollees.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. The key to this controversy is Humana’s use of the word "could." People in enrolled in Medicare Advantage could lose some of their benefits if Congress enacts Democratic health care legislation that would cut $100 billion or more from Medicare Advantage outlays over the next 10 years. That was the conclusion of Douglas Elmendorf, head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, who told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday that cuts in future Medicare Advantage spending would reduce benefits that people in Medicare Advantage get.

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