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D.C. Digest: Hern says Democrats' spending plan endangers Medicare Advantage
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D.C. Digest: Hern says Democrats' spending plan endangers Medicare Advantage

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Dis-advantage: First District Congressman Kevin Hern said he’s concerned that Medicare Advantage, otherwise known as Part C, might be in trouble because of changes to Medicare sought be Democrats.

Traditional Medicare — Parts A (hospitalization) and B (outpatient care) — is administered by the federal government. Part A is funded through payroll taxes paid into what is generally referred to as the Medicare trust fund, while the rest of Medicare relies on combinations of premiums and general revenue appropriations.

Parts A&B supplements, or “Medigap,” policies are sold by private insurers, as are prescription drug plans under Part D.

Part C/Medicare Advantage consists of private insurance plans sold and administered by insurance companies. These policies essentially combine the features of A, B and D, and often include additional benefits.

Parts A and B are essentially fee-for-service plans that allow patients to use any provider that accepts Medicare, and almost all do.

Part C is managed care, meaning patients must remain in the plan’s provider network or pay more.

Democrats want to add hearing, vision and dental benefits to Medicare Part B. Private insurers are concerned that will make their Advantage plans, which often already offer those benefits in some form, less attractive. There is also some concern that, to pay for the expansion of Part B, Congress will cut the subsidies that cover about 75% of the cost of Part C policies.

Last week Hern and other Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to shelve the Part B expansion plans in favor of privatization via Part C.

“The choice between continuing to modernize our Medicare system or doubling down on the outdated Fee-for-Service system comes at a critical time,” they said. “We should be taking steps to ensure our commitment to our nation’s seniors by building on the successes of Medicare Advantage. Now is not the time to put misleading political priorities ahead of the financial certainty of seniors’ healthcare benefits.”

Biden faulted for deadly drone strike: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe blamed President Joe Biden, at least indirectly, for the Aug. 29 drone strike that killed 10 civilians, most of them children, in Afghanistan.

“President Biden bears ultimate responsibility,” Inhofe said in a written statement. “His precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has left our military with an impossible mission of countering terrorists without any personnel or partners on the ground.”

U.S. officials initially maintained the drone intercepted a car loaded with explosives headed for the Kabul airport. It is unclear whether the drone attacked the wrong car or the original intelligence prompting the strike was incorrect.

Inhofe said the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which he is the senior Republican, will look into the matter.

Stick it: Oklahoma’s congressional delegation — some members louder than others — is encouraging COVID-19 vaccination while loudly protesting President Joe Biden’s attempt to mandate the shots.

“I’ve had the vaccine,” U.S. Sen. James Lankford said in a floor speech. “I’m grateful for the vaccine. It’s an entirely different issue for the president of the United States to wag his finger at the American people and to say, ‘I know what you’ve chosen, but I choose something different, and you’re going to follow me.’”

First District Congressman Kevin Hern said he, too, has been vaccinated, and 4th District Congressman Tom Cole told the Norman Transcript last week he’s been surprised and disappointed by Oklahomans’ resistance to the vaccine.

Hern and Lankford, citing a recent report from Israel, said a substantial share of unvaccinated Americans don’t need to be because they’ve already had COVID-19, which gives them a strong natural immunity.

There is, however, considerable disagreement about that, with some authorities on the subject arguing that natural immunity is not guaranteed and may not be as long-lasting.

Vaccines, it’s been shown, are not 100% effective, either — but hospitals report upwards of 90% of their COVID patients are unvaccinated.

Bottom lines: Citing privacy concerns, Lankford joined Republican opposition to Biden’s initiative to beef up the Internal Revenue Service in order catch tax scofflaws, particularly in the upper income brackets. ... Lankford also protested the National Archives’ decision to post a “Harmful Language Alert” on its website’s searchable documents, including the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. ... Hern predicted more Democrats will turn away from their leadership’s $3.5 trillion spending bill. ... Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin referred to the measure, which the administration calls the Build Back Better Act, as the Build More Inflation Act. ... Cole is a sponsor of an American Indian voting rights bill. ... Inhofe warned that recently concluded Russian military exercises could be the prelude for an invasion, which he said they have been before. ... Lankford plugged his bill to avoid government shutdowns on Fox Radio’s Brian Kilmeade show. ... Several farm-state lawmakers, including Lankford, questioned an Aug. 20 Food Safety and Inspection Service edict that meat packing and poultry processing workers wear masks when FSIS personnel are present. ... Lankford was among Republicans complaining to Google for banning advertisements saying drug-induced abortions can be “reversed,” a claim most medical experts on the subject dispute.

Featured video:

Aug. 16, 2021 video. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt praised service members and was highly critical of President Biden's handling of the situation in Afghanistan

— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World

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