I don't know what the President is going to say in his address on health care tomorrow night, but I know one item that Representative Steve Kagen will be listening for: The fate of Medicare Advantage plans. These are the plans that some seniors buy to supplement Medicare.
At Kagen's listening session on August 31st this subject came up a number of times; primarily due to the fact that these plans are popular among those that have them and they have been targeted to receive reduced funding as a means of paying for comprehensive health care reform. Plans to reduce popular spending programs are, to say the least, unpopular.
Kagen tried to reassure the crowd that he believed in the Medicare Advantage program, but it was the Democratic leadership that had targeted these programs for a reduction. At least two separate times he tried to explain how he was fighting to keep these programs intact. Since the question came up more than once, he apparently wasn't very convincing.
My own quick research on this topic has only confused the issue.
In discussing these plans, Kagen said that they worked well for rural districts like the Wisconsin 8th. But the Kaiser Family Foundation May 2009 Medicare Advantage fact sheet indicates that in rural counties enrollment in Advantage plans is only 13%. Maybe WI-8 doesn't qualify as rural.
It also notes that in Wisconsin statewide, enrollment is only 26%. This surprised me given the fact that it was raised as an issue several times at the listening session. More telling though, was the fact that Kagen immediately recognized it as an issue and had come prepared to discuss it specifically. It was clear that somehow he had gotten the message that people were concerned about Medicare Advantage.
At this point, I can't tell if this is an issue of substance or of perception. Regardless, it is an issue to watch as the health care debate continues and one that will likely effect next year's race for Wisconsin's 8th District seat.