Category: Budget Cuts

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Consortium News

Obama Keeps Pentagon Spigot Open


President Barack Obama on the campaign trail. (Photo credit:

Though he ran for the White House as a “change” candidate, President Obama has mostly favored continuity, including bending to the usual pressure from the Military-Industrial Complex to keep the Pentagon spending flowing, as budget watchdog Chuck Spinney explains.

By Chuck Spinney

The Pentagon just won another small skirmish in its long war with Social Security and Medicare. That is the unstated message of the budget deal just announced gleefully by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama. To understand why, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

Last January, President Obama submitted Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget to Congress, and he proposed to break the spending limits on both defense and domestic programs.  These limits are set by the long-term sequester provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011  (BCA), which, for better or worse, is the law of the land, and Obama was asking Congress to change the law.

Mr. Obama wanted to finance his ramped up spending proposals by increasing taxes.  Of course, he knew that the Republican-controlled Congress lusted for defense increases but hated domestic spending, particularly entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare.

Moreover, he knew increasing taxes was like waving the red cape in front of the Republican budget bulls. So, he knew his budget would be dead on arrival. Obama’s budget, nevertheless, had one virtue: it was up-front about the intractable nature of the budget problem. In effect, whether deliberately or not, Obama laid a trap that the Republicans merrily walked into during the ensuing spring and summer.


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The Independent

Malnutrition and ‘Victorian’ diseases soaring in England ‘due to food poverty and cuts’

Cases of malnutrition and other “Victorian” diseases are soaring in England, in what campaigners said was a result of cuts to social services and rising food poverty.

NHS statistics show that 7,366 people were admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition between August 2014 and July this year, compared with 4,883 cases in the same period from 2010 to 2011 – a rise of more than 50 per cent in just four years.

Cases of other diseases rife in the Victorian era including scurvy, scarlet fever, cholera and whooping cough have also increased since 2010, although cases of TB, measles, typhoid and rickets have fallen.

Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust, which runs a nationwide network of foodbanks, said they saw “tens of thousands of people who have been going hungry, missing meals and cutting back on the quality of the food they buy”.


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The Independent

Malnutrition cases in English hospitals almost double in five years

Admissions to hospitals have soared as poorer families struggle to afford food


The shocking impact of recession and austerity on England’s poorest people has come to light again in figures showing the number of malnutrition cases treated at NHS hospitals has nearly doubled since the economic downturn.

Primary and secondary diagnoses of malnutrition – caused by lack of food or very poor diet – rose from 3,161 in 2008/09 to 5,499 last year, according to figures released by the health minister Norman Lamb.

While the data does not include information on the circumstances of each diagnosis, the rise coincides with a dramatic increase in the cost of living, and a spike in demand for charity food hand-outs.

The figures, broken down by region, reveal the heaviest burden of hunger is being felt in rural areas. Hospitals in Somerset saw the most cases, with 215 diagnoses, followed by Cornwall and Scilly Isles.


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Wikimedia Commons


Hopes are dimming that Congress will intervene to block a huge Medicare premium increase of over 50 percent for nearly a third of the 50 million elderly Americans who receive their physician care and other health services through Medicare Part D.

Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked over how to come up with roughly $10.5 billion to prevent Medicare premiums from skyrocketing for millions of seniors beginning next January. The looming increase is the result of a quirk in the law that drives up premiums for wealthier Americans and poor people with chronic medical problems in years when the Social Security Administration doesn’t approve a cost-of-living adjustment for beneficiaries.

Related: Millions Face a 50 % Medicare Premium Hike If Obama and Congress Don’t Act

While both parties are interested in doing something to reduce or avert the premium hikes, Republicans are demanding that the cost of any bailout be offset by cuts in other areas of the Medicare program, while Democrats are resisting that approach. Moreover, there is a division between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) – a major champion of a bailout – and some Senate Democratic leaders who are less enthusiastic about the effort and how to pay for it.

“It’s a big mess,” said one Washington health care expert who is following the negotiations closely.

Negotiations may pick up later this month once the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services formally releases its official 2016 premium rates, according to a report on Thursday by the Morning Consult.



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No need to get shirty! Air France executive is forced to climb a fence after staff attack him and rip off his shirt when he announces 2,900 job losses

  • Air France executives attacked after staff stormed company headquarters
  • Company plans to cut 2,900 jobs and 14 aircraft from its long-haul fleet
  • HR vice president and long-haul flights deputy had their shirts torn off

Air France managers have been forced to flee the company’s headquarters after being attacked by a baying mob of workers that tore their clothes off.

Hundreds of angry staff stormed the Air France building at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, after the company announced plans to cut 2,900 jobs on Monday.

Two senior executives, Xavier Broseta, Vice President for Human Resources, and Pierre Plissonnier, deputy of Air France long-haul flights, both had their shirts ripped off their backs as they were evacuated through the crowds.


Under attack: A shirtless Xavier Broseta, Executive Vice President for Human Resources at Air France, is evacuated by security after employees interrupted a meeting with representatives staff at the Air France headquarters building at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris

Under attack: A shirtless Xavier Broseta, Executive Vice President for Human Resources at Air France, is evacuated by security after employees interrupted a meeting with representatives staff at the Air France headquarters building at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris

Shortly before the attack, Mr Broseta and Air France Chief Executive Frederic Gagey had outlined a drastic cost cutting plan, which would see 2,900 jobs cut by 2017.

The cuts include 1,700 ground staff, 900 cabin crew and 300 pilots, as part of efforts to lower costs, two union sources said.

Air France also confirmed in the meeting that it plans to shed 14 aircraft from its long-haul fleet, reducing the business by ten per cent, and that it wants to cancel its order for Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

This outraged staff, who are already at loggerheads with the company, and hundreds stormed the building, interrupting the meeting.

Mr Broseta and Mr Plissonnier were aided by security as they tried to escape the baying mob
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File:VH-3D Marine One over Washington DC May 2005.jpg

Official U.S. Marine Corps photo 050521-N-0295M-097 [1] from the USMC website [2]

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), in flight over Washington D.C. on 21 May 2005.

By  :  PH2(AW) Daniel J. McLain



Monday, 12 May 2014 09:47

$1.2 Billion for New White House Helicopters Just the Beginning

Written by 

It didn’t take long for critics to scoff at the costs of the latest effort to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters announced by the Defense Department on Wednesday, May 7. They say the $1.2-billion contract awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation will be just the beginning.

There are at least two reasons to be skeptical: the open-ended nature of the White House requirements, and recent history.

The Department of Defense outlined its requirements, stating that Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which currently operates 19 presidential helicopters, must provide “safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office.”

In addition, each aircraft must be equipped with various self-defense features such as bulletproof glass and body panels, as well as specialized communications equipment that allows the president to maintain “critical command functions” while airborne. Each helicopter must be large enough to carry up to 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of baggage while being small enough to operate from the White House lawn.

Each must have a minimum range of 300 miles and carry a full complement of defensive countermeasures to thwart heat-seeking and radar-directed missiles and also be hardened against an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either from an enemy or from the sun. It must be able to send and receive encrypted communications and hold secure teleconferences while in flight.

And each must have air-conditioning and a toilet.

Under the contract Sikorsky promises to deliver two prototypes by 2016, with another 21 fully operational aircraft six years later.

Several questions arise. First, why so many? After all, there’s just one president and one vice president. According to, anytime the president flies somewhere by helicopter, four other helicopters are alongside him. They fly in varying formations to keep the president’s aircraft as disguised as possible. This is often referred to as the presidential “shell game.” In addition, with a helicopter’s range of just 300 miles, a longer trip must “cache” additional aircraft along the route.


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ByBruce Kennedy

Another bad sign for America’s middle class

You don’t have to be an economic victim of the Great Recession to know that America’s middle class is being squeezed in an unprecedented manner. Not only is the U.S. middle class no longer the world’s richest, according to recent research, but millions of families who were once financially secure are now living hand-to-mouth.

What’s going on? A new report from the National Employment Law Project finds that, nearly five years after the recession officially ended, most of the jobs that have been created during the recovery offer lower wages. Such positions made up 22 percent of jobs lost in the recession, but have accounted for 44 percent of employment growth.


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Where is the middle class heading?


The labor research and advocacy group also found that, from the outset of the recession in late 2007 to its low point in February of 2010, “employment losses occurred throughout the economy, but were concentrated in mid-wage and higher-wage industries.”

By contrast, mid-wage positions, which composed 37 percent of the jobs cut in the recession, have made up only 26 percent of those recovered. High-wage industries, which made up 41 percent of recession jobs lost, reportedly had a 30 percent recovery growth.

“Today, there are nearly 2 million fewer jobs in mid- and higher-wage industries than there were before the recession took hold, while there are 1.85 million more jobs in lower-wage industries,” NELP said in a statement,


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The low wage jobs explosion

  @Luhby April 28, 2014: 4:57 PM ET

low wage explosionLow wage jobs are on the rise.


Looking for a job? The ones you’ll find will likely be low wage.

The labor market has been recovering since the Great Recession ended, but many of the jobs created have been in low-wage industries, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning group.

Among the fastest-growing jobs: Food services, home health care and retail — all of which pay relatively little.

Better paying blue-collar industries, such as construction and manufacturing, have not recovered to their employment levels before the recession.

Lower wage industries accounted for 44% of employment growth since employment hit bottom in February 2010, the group found.

Going back to the start of the recession six years ago, the nation has added 1.85 million jobs in low-wage industries, but mid-wage and higher-wage industries have shed nearly 1 million positions each.


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Milwaukee Business Journal  

Apr 10, 2014, 2:40pm CDT Updated: Apr 10, 2014, 3:03pm CDT

Oshkosh Corp. to slash 760 defense unit jobs


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Specialty truck manufacturer Oshkosh Corp. makes all-terrain trucks for the U.S. military.

Reporter- Milwaukee Business Journal

Oshkosh Corp. announced it would lay off 700 hourly positions starting in June and 60 salaried jobs by July in its defense segment.

Most of the salaried positions are temporary employees and people who are retiring. Following the cuts, Oshkosh Defense will have about 1,850 employees. The cuts reflect the reduction in defense spending by the U.S., which is returning to peacetime operations, said John Urias, executive vice president and president of Oshkosh Defense.

“We have gone to great lengths to minimize and delay the impact of the reduced spending on our Defense workforce,” Urias said. “We explored and implemented a range of alternatives from not filling open positions to bringing in outside contracted work as promised in earlier discussions with the UAW, which represents our production employees, as well as continuing to pursue relevant international opportunities.”


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NBC15 WMTV | Madison, WI | News, Weather, Sports

Wis.-Based Oshkosh to Lay Off 900 this Summer

Posted Tuesday, April 9, 2013 — 1:40 p.m.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) — Defense contractor Oshkosh Corp. plans to lay off 900 people this summer as military vehicle orders decline.

The Oshkosh-based company says it will begin laying off 700 hourly employees in mid-June, with 200 salaried employees to be laid off by the end of July.

Company leaders say production is declining as the military continues to wind down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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Crain's Detroit Business

General Dynamics, Oshkosh land $120 million in vehicle and parts contracts

 Originally Published: April 01, 2014 3:17 PM  Modified: April 03, 2014 11:09 AM

Two defense ground vehicle manufacturers with a Michigan footprint have received production awards worth more than $120 million combined, to build several hundred new vehicles or vehicle components by late 2015.

Sterling Heights-based General Dynamics Land Systems reported today it has received a $74.7 million contract from the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va. for “egress upgrade kits” to improve its fleet of Cougar infantry vehicles.

The company’s Force Protection subsidiary, created when GDLS acquired Ladson, S.C.-based Force Protection Inc. in 2011, will develop and produce 916 egress kits for the Cougar by September 2015 under that contract.


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Healthcare cuts canceled after Dem complaints

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The Obama administration announced Monday that planned cuts to Medicare Advantage would not go through as anticipated amid election-year opposition from congressional Democrats.

The cuts would have reduced benefits that seniors receive from health plans in the program, which is intended as an alternative to Medicare.

Under cuts planned by the administration, insurers offering the plans were to see their federal payments reduced by 1.9 percent, which likely would have necessitated cuts for customers.

Instead, the administration said the federal payments to insurers will increase next year by .40 percent.

The healthcare law included $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, in part to pay for ObamaCare.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) on Monday said changes in the healthcare market meant it did not need to make those cuts to Medicare Advantage this year.

It cited an increase in healthy beneficiaries under Medicare, which it said has lowered projected costs for that program.

CMS separately is delaying a risk assessment proposal that was set to take affect under ObamaCare.


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Obama administration proposes 1.9% cut in Medicare Advantage payments

February 21, 2014 8:08 pm by

Barack ObamaMedicare Advantage plans could see payment reductions of 1.9 percent next year under proposed rates announced Friday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Insurers, who have led a fierce lobbying campaign against payment reductions, have said the combination of the health law’s lower payment rates, new fees on health plans and other factors, including automatic federalspending cuts known as “sequestration,” mean that Medicare Advantage plans will see their Medicare payment rates drop by 6 percent – or even more — in 2015.

CMS said Friday its preliminary estimate is “the combined effect of the Medicare Advantage growth percentage and the fee-for-service growth percentage.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans said they are reviewing the details of the announcement to determine the total impact of the federal payment rates. In a statement, AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni was critical of the proposed rates, saying, “The new proposed Medicare Advantage cuts would cause seniors in the program to lose benefits and choices on which they depend.”


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Obama flip-flops on Medicare drug coverage

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

The Obama administration, in an abrupt about-face, said on Monday it would drop proposed changes to Medicare drug coverage that met wide opposition on grounds they would harm health benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Late last week, more than 370 organizations representing insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, health providers and patients urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw changes it had proposed for Medicare Part D.

One of the federal government’s most successful and cost-effective healthcare programs, Part D provides drug benefits for the elderly and disabled through private insurers to 36 million enrollees.

Critics said the changes, if adopted in coming months, could not only undermine Part D benefits but impact drug benefits available through Medicare Advantage, a program that allows Medicare beneficiaries to obtain their major medical coverage through private insurers.

“Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time. We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner advised in a letter sent on Monday to members of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The proposals were opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Republican Party had already begun to look for ways to leverage popular anger over the changes into campaign attacks on Democratic incumbents who could be vulnerable in November’s election showdown for control of Congress.

Elated critics of the proposed changes said the government had effectively agreed to start over in the face of broad, bipartisan opposition.


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New York Times SundayReview

The Obama administration’s proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans — the private insurance plans that cover almost 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries — are fair and reasonable. As it happens, they are also mandated by law. Yet Republicans, sensing a campaign issue, are telling older and disabled Americans that the administration is “raiding Medicare Advantage to pay for Obamacare.” The health insurance industry, for its part, is warning that enrollees will suffer higher premiums, lower benefits and fewer choices among doctors if the cuts go into force.

Some of this could in fact happen, although the industry has cried wolf before and continues to thrive. But the key point is this: Over the past decade, enrollees in Medicare Advantage have received lots of extra benefits, thanks to unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies. Now they will have to do with somewhat less, unless the insurers are willing to absorb the cuts while maintaining benefits. Enrollment in these private plans, offered by companies like UnitedHealth and Humana, has more than doubled since 2006, in part because of lower premiums and extra benefits, like gym memberships, that are not included in traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

What made these perks possible was, in effect, a subsidy from taxpayers and other Medicare beneficiaries. The federal government paid the private plans, on average, 14 percent more in 2009 than it would cost to treat the same people in traditional Medicare. The insurers used this extra money to reduce enrollees’ costs and add benefits.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act rightly required that these subsidies be reduced, although it stopped short of completely eliminating them. The reductions began to take effect in 2012, and have not, so far, visibly harmed beneficiaries or the plans. Since enactment of the law, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent, the opposite of what some expected, and enrollment has increased by nearly 33 percent, according to the administration. But as the law intended, federal payments to the private plans dropped — from 7 percent more than services under traditional Medicare in 2012 to 4 percent more last year. The administration now proposes to further reduce the payments to Medicare Advantage plans in 2015. The loudest criticism has come from Republicans, but plenty of Democrats have chimed in.

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10 Stories From The Cold, Hard Streets Of America That Will Break Your Heart

Depressed - Photo by Sander van der Wel

If the economy is really “getting better”, then why have millions upon millions of formerly middle class Americans been pushed to the point of utter despair?

The stories that you are about to read are absolutely heartbreaking.  I don’t know how anyone can read them without getting chills.  In America today, if you lose a good job, there is a good chance that you will get back on your feet before too long.  But there is also a good chance that you won’t be able to find a decent job and will plunge into the abyss of depression and desperation that so many millions of other Americans have fallen into.  As I wrote about earlier this month, the U.S. economy is definitely not getting any better.  For example, if you assume that the percentage of Americans that want to work is about at the long term average, then the official unemployment rate in the United States would be above 11 percent.  And compared to six years ago, 1,154,000 fewer Americans are working today even though our population has gotten significantly larger since then.  Behind all of these numbers are real flesh and blood people, and you are about to hear from some of them.  The following are 10 stories from the cold, hard streets of America that will break your heart…

#1 A 34-year-old man named Rocco

“While my wife goes to work, I’ve been staying at home to conserve fuel. I’ve been losing weight from eating less, so my family has more on their plates. It feels like the government and big business expect more and more while trying to give back as little as possible. Soon my internet connection will be shut off and since most companies don’t offer paper applications, how will I find work then? Walking around for miles a day, asking for an application that may or may not be available?”

#2 Homeless people wasting away in “Obamavilles” on the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland…

A sheet of plastic laid over a clothesline. A mini-fortress of milk crates stacked under a tree. A thin mattress on a flimsy crate lying in a dark tunnel.

On the edge of Baltimore’s woodlands, dozens of the city’s transients live in makeshift homes which they consider safer than homeless shelters.

You can see some incredible photos of how these homeless people are living right here.

#3 A 50-year-old woman in Pennsylvania named Karen

“My husband only makes 10 dollars an hour and drives 30 miles round trip, so it’s taking all we have just to keep the Jeep filled with gas. We stopped going to church and all to save gas. We are homebodies now, afraid to use what gas we have. We save two kids from getting put in foster care just to be hit like this. It’s just a constant trap they try to keep you from receiving any help! I’m so disgusted when my 12-year-old asks me why we don’t have snacks anymore, or why are we eating so much rice, etc.”

#4 The following is an excerpt from a comment that was recently left by one of my readers

“I live right at ground zero. South West Virginia and let me tell you things are bad and getting worse by the day. We don’t do drugs but have family members hooked on meth and or pills or both. Many of these pills are prescribed by local doctors either Suboxone to get you off the opiates, a total joke by the way and tons of Xanax why would anyone need 120 Xanax a month how can you even be expected to function. These pills get traded for cash sex and other items, same goes for the SNAP cards. We have family members going to jail repeatedly for the same crimes making meth, selling pills and stealing anything that’s not nailed down. People who are 30 years old look like they are 55 years old. The jobs here are awful walmat, gas stations, fast food etc. Most of our whole county is on the government dole.”

#5 A 55-year-old man from California named Randy Carpadus

“I was working as a firefighter for the state of California and was laid off in April 2012, right at the beginning of fire season. At my age, I’m not going to be picked up by another fire department. They want younger guys.

I’ve applied for everything from truck driver, to sales, to nonprofit work. I’ve sent out almost 400 resumes, and I’ve gotten nothing. I’ve done whatever I could to make ends meet.

Through some connections, I got a temp job as a truck driver in Napa Valley — a 3-hour commute from where I live. I lived in my car and worked during grape harvest.”

#6 In this tough economic environment, debt collectors are becoming even more aggressive.  Just check out the kind of harassment that one woman named Jennifer Posey has been put through…

“This is Jimmy Lee calling from CheckCare. Just letting you know we’re in full force,” he said. The man had a thick Southern accent that stretched the word “you” into a two-syllable accusation. “We’re going to have warrants out for your arrest in Columbus, Ga.,” the man threatened. “We know you have an apartment on the canal in Clearwater.”

It was when he mentioned her home in Florida that Posey began to feel anxious. “We’re hurting you,” he continued. “We’re hurting your family, your son’s family, your cousin’s family. Whatever we can do to get you to pay.”

Forty minutes later, her phone rang again. “What about that 12-, 13-year-old child you’re trying to raise?” the voice sneered.

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Republican lawmakers cried foul Friday night over an Obama administration proposal to cut payment rates to private insurers who administer Medicare Advantage, a popular alternative to the government-run health program for seniors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed cut of 3.55 percent to insurers like Humana Inc. and United HealthGroup Inc., although the reductions would not become final until spring.

Although not a surprise, the proposed cuts come after an intense lobbying effort by the insurance industry against slashing rates, citing the potential for higher costs to seniors, and GOP lawmakers this year are sure to use the cuts as further ammo against the Affordable Care Act and its Democratic supporters.

“The health law cut more than $300 billion from the popular Medicare Advantage program, potentially forcing hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to find new health care plans, despite the president’s promise,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of a House panel on health. “The cuts announced today will only exacerbate the effect this will have on the health care of millions of our nation’s seniors, leaving them with higher costs and fewer choices.”

About 15 million people, or slightly less than a third of all Medicare recipients, are enrolled Medicare Advantage plans, while the rest rely on the government’s fee-for-service model to reimburse doctors.

CMS officials insisted late Friday that the program is on the right course. It said Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, while enrollment has increased to an all-time high 15 million enrollees.

“We believe that plans will continue their strong participation in the Medicare Advantage program in 2015 and beneficiaries will continue to have a wide array of high quality, high value, low cost options available to them while at the same time we are making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS’s principal deputy administrator.


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