2007 NAACP letter said Obamacare-style Medicare Advantage cuts would hurt millions of minorities

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to Congress in March 2007 stating that proposed Medicare Advantage cuts — like the kind later imposed by Obamacare — would damage the lives of millions of low-income minorities.

Obamacare raided $300 billion from privately-run Medicare Advantage plans for its own funding, which will begin affecting seniors in 2014.

A more moderate Medicare Advantage cut previously angered the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The Democratic-proposed State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization Act aimed to “equalize” payments to higher-benefit Medicare Advantage plans with payments to traditional Medicare. The bill was supposed to transfer the money from the Medicare Advantage cuts to beef up funding for the CHIP (previously SCHIP), which provides federal matching funds to states for health insurance for children.

The bill passed both houses of Congress before President George W. Bush vetoed it, citing the bill’s effective redistribution of funds from poor seniors to middle-class families. The House of Representatives under Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed to override Bush’s veto.

The Congressional Budget Office’s estimates predicted the bill would have caused $50 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts in five years and $157 billion in cuts by 2017 — still billions less than Obamacare cut the program in one fell swoop.

“[Medicare Advantage] MA plans – private health plan options that provide coverage to 8.3 million Medicare beneficiaries – disproportionately provide coverage to low-income and racial and ethnic minority beneficiaries,” according to a letter the NAACP sent to Congress.

“Specifically, 40 percent of African Americans without Medicaid or employer coverage rely on comprehensive health insurance coverage provided by MA plans. By providing more comprehensive benefits and lower cost-sharing than traditional Medicare, MA plans help racial and ethnic minority populations gain access to health care services that are critical to their long-term health and well-being,” the NAACP letter read.

“Reduced funding for the MA program would have a negative impact on the health and health care of millions of Medicare beneficiaries – particularly for low-income and minority beneficiaries,” the letter continued.

“We urge you not to backtrack on these priorities by cutting funding for the MA program. This program is vitally important to the health and well-being of racial and ethnic minorities who rely on MA to provide them with the comprehensive, affordable, and coordinated care they need,” the NAACP letter added.

“Ensuring access to high quality, affordable health care is one of our top priorities, and one that is especially critical in the Hispanic community. We firmly believe Medicare Advantage is helping meet this challenge for Hispanic seniors,” the League of United Latin American Citizens stated in its own letter to Congress.

“Minorities across the country would be hit especially hard by the Democratic cuts to Medicare Advantage, because 40 percent of all Medicare-eligible African Americans and 53 percent of all eligible Latinos are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans,” Republican Rep. Pat Tibieri stated in 2007.

Former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Louis Stokes lobbied caucus members on behalf of UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest Medicare Advantage insurer, to oppose the 2007 bill because Medicare Advantage benefits minorities.

NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn Brock recently said that Obamacare is “one of the most pressing civil rights issues for this generation” and that the law’s opponents “resist our noble cause.”

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