Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Caving in on Medicare Advantage cost controls

The Obama administration caved to election-year pressure last week by reversing proposed spending cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage program. It may have been smart politics, with Republicans such as Gov. Rick Scott recklessly scaring seniors and Democrats in Washington such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joining the call to avoid the cut. But it is shortsighted public policy to again replace a modest proposed spending cut with a small increase in payments to private health insurers in a program that should be more cost-efficient.

There is no question that Medicare Advantage, which refers to the managed care plans offered by private insurers, is popular with seniors. About 30 percent of all Medicare recipients nationwide, or almost 16 million Americans, are in one of the private plans — including about 1.4 million Floridians. Medicare Advantage customers are generally satisfied with their choice of doctors, like their plan and take advantage of perks that are not available in traditional Medicare such as free gym memberships and prescription glasses. But those perks are essentially being subsidized by taxpayers and other Medicare recipients, and their popularity is no reason to keep putting off plans to further rein in those subsidies.

There has been some progress toward cost parity with traditional Medicare. Five years ago, the federal government paid Medicare Advantage plans 14 percent more than it spent to treat people on traditional Medicare. The 2010 Affordable Care Act aimed to reduce those subsidies, and the disparity was cut to 7 percent in 2012 and to 4 percent last year. But heavy lobbying by health insurers and pressure from members of both political parties have stalled the efforts.

What was supposed to be a 2.3 percent cut for Medicare Advantage plans in 2014 became a 3.3 percent increase. Now the Obama administration has retreated from a proposed 1.9 percent cut for the private plans in 2015 to a 0.4 percent increase, although insurers claim other changes still will result in cuts of about 6 percent. Remember that the insurance industry's previous dire warnings about reduced benefits, fewer plan choices, widespread huge premium increases and declines in customers have not come to pass.

Yet in Florida last week, Scott continued to scare seniors by warning them of the dangers of cuts in federal spending on Medicare Advantage plans even after the Obama administration reversed itself and called for a slight increase in spending. Earlier this month, the governor also relied on outdated estimates to inflate potential premium increases. In Washington, Republicans criticize Democrats for the Affordable Care Act's aim to slow Medicare spending. But the 2015 budget written by Republicans and approved by the House last week includes the same projected savings.

The bottom line: More cost savings can be squeezed out of Medicare and Medicare Advantage in particular, and those savings should not be sacrificed because of scare tactics and election-year posturing.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18