Following is the New York Times’ coverage of Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s proposed amendment that would shield seniors from benefit cuts under the administration’s health care reform bill. Senator Nelson, who is hearing from constituents, recently met with patients at the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital.
WASHINGTON — Senator Bill Nelson of Florida desperately wants to expand health insurance coverage because one in five Floridians is uninsured. As a former state insurance commissioner, he wants to crack down on insurers. And as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, he can shape legislation to achieve both goals.
But Mr. Nelson, a Democrat, has a big problem. The bill taken up this week by the committee would cut Medicare payments to insurance companies that care for more than 10 million older Americans, including nearly one million in Florida. The program, known as Medicare Advantage, is popular because it offers extra benefits, including vision and dental care and even, in some cases, membership in health clubs or fitness centers.
“It would be intolerable to ask senior citizens to give up substantial health benefits they are enjoying under Medicare,” said Mr. Nelson, who has been deluged with calls and complaints from constituents. “I am offering an amendment to shield seniors from those benefit cuts.”
Similar concerns exploded into public view on Wednesday as members of the Finance Committee slogged though a mammoth health care overhaul bill for a second day.
To help offset the cost of covering the uninsured, the Senate and House bills would squeeze roughly $400 billion to $500 billion out of the projected growth in Medicare over 10 years.
Republicans on Wednesday accused Democrats of using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for coverage of the uninsured. Democrats countered by saying they were eliminating overpayments to insurance companies and extending the life of the Medicare trust fund, which could run out of money in 2017.
Submitted by Anonymous on Wed, 09/23/2009 - 8:33pm