U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Jim Demint of South Carolina, along with other Republican senators John McCain of Arizona, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both of Georgia wrote to a group of states Attorneys General who are investigating the “Cornhusker Kickback,” encouraging them to expand the scope of their investigation to include a Florida provision. That provision protects some Florida seniors from reductions in Medicare Advantage coverage. That group of Attorney’s General is led by South Carolina’s Henry McMaster.
Graham says the program would be cut or eliminated in all states but Florida. He said that’s a back door deal with senator Bill Nelson of Florida. Graham says Medicare Advantage plans cover approximately 111,000 people in South Carolina, who would loose that coverage even though recipients under the program in Florida would keep the coverage.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is not to be confused with Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who was connected to the “cornhusker kickback,” the controversial provision designed to benefit his state’s Medicaid program. National reports say that provision has now been dropped from the national health care reform proposal. McMaster said that the Attorneys General would not follow through with their lawsuit if the Nebraska provision was dropped.
Graham spoke about health care reform Tuesday afternoon at the Cancer Centers of the Carolinas in Greenville. “We’re asking through a letter to the 19 Attorneys General to look at this,” he says. “I don’t believe it passes the constitutionality test of treating states in a uniform manner. This is just another example of what they did to pass the bill.”
Under the Senate health care bill, seniors in specific counties in the State of Florida currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage will have their current benefits “grandfathered” into the program. Graham says the approximately 10 million other Medicare Advantage enrollees across the United States will not be as fortunate and will be subjected to significant cuts in their benefits.
Medicare Advantage is the privately-managed option that one fifth of seniors have already chosen instead of traditional fee-for-service Medicare. The program offers seniors a choice in how their Medicare benefits are delivered. Medicare Advantage more closely resembles the insurance plans that the beneficiaries had as workers.
The senators emphasize that their problem is not with Medicare Advantage enrollees in the State of Florida, but with the fact that enrollees in other states would receive different treatment.