American Benefits Council
Benefits Byte


February 19, 2015

The Benefits Byte is the American Benefits Council’s regular e-mail and online newsletter for members only, providing timely reports on legislative, regulatory and judicial developments, along with updates on the Council’s activities in support of employer-sponsored benefit plans.

The Benefits Byte is published by the American Benefits Council, based on staff reports and edited by Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications. Contact information for Council staff related to specific topics can be found at the end of each story.

Click here to read past issues on the Benefits Byte Archive page.

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Council and Other Employer Groups Express Opposition to Proposed Cuts in Medicare Advantage Program

In February 18 written comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Council and nine other employer groups expressed concern with further cuts to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. Proposed 2016 rates for the MA program are expected to be announced soon, with final rates to be set later in the year.

The letter states that more than 2.7 million retirees receive health insurance coverage through an employer in the form of [MA Employer Group Waiver Plans (MA-EGWP plans)], comprising approximately 18 percent of total MA enrollment and notes that these plans, which allow employers to contract with Medicare Part D and provide flexible MA coverage, are increasingly popular because they feature the optimal mix of affordability and quality plan design.

President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 federal budget proposal included $43.4 billion in MA-related cuts over the next decade, with nearly $7.2 billion in cuts affecting MA-EGWPs, in addition to the provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that are expected to reduce MA funding by $200 billion by 2019. The group letter says that these cuts will cause employers to face “significant challenges in building long-term strategies for effective retiree coverage .... Not only do MA cuts hurt millions of seniors through reduced benefits, narrower networks, and higher out-of-pocket costs, but employers who want to sustain group-sponsored Medicare retiree coverage are simultaneously pressured by rising health costs.”

The Council joined a similar group letter urging against further MA cuts in March 2014 and also filed its own letter expressing similar concerns in February 2014 (see the March 10, 2014, Benefits Byte for more information). For more information, contact Kathryn Wilber, senior counsel, health policy at (202) 289-6700.

A Bit About Your Benefits: Council Webinars

Just saw an e-mail notice of an upcoming Council webinar and want to join in?

Upon receiving a session notice, register through the RSVP link in the e-mail. Please click through the entire short series of screens to the last one containing the OK button. Hitting OK automatically generates a confirmation e-mail from the Council with the webinar access information you need. This can also be used when you self-submit for continuing education credit. Please do NOT forward this e-mail on to anyone else as all participants must be individually registered.

We encourage members to view webinar sessions in groups such as in a conference room at your organization. If you and your colleagues plan to do this, Council staff can help ensure each individual receives credit for participation.

If possible, please submit your questions in advance to the webinar moderator. Each session notice identifies the Council staff member to whom these can be addressed. All questions submitted in advance or asked during the webinar are addressed on an anonymous basis, so that the person posing the question is not identified.

Should a webinar be scheduled at a time at which you will not have computer access, there are a couple of options. If you will be able to listen by phone only, we can provide you with a personalized dial-in number, which will be emailed to you one-half hour prior to the start of the session. Alternatively, a free recording of every session is available to Council members upon request within several hours of the live webinar. Please contact our staff as far in advance as possible to request this, as dial-in information must be individually generated for each person upon commencement of the official webinar session.

For more information, contact Deanna Johnson, director, membership; Sondra Williams, manager, member & staff engagement; or Mary Lindsay, receptionist, at (202) 289-6700.


The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.

Notice: the information contained herein is general in nature. It is not, and should not be construed as, accounting, consulting, legal or tax advice or opinion provided by the American Benefits Council or any of its employees. As required by the IRS, we inform you that any information contained herein was not intended or written to be used or referred to, and cannot be used or referred to (i) for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) in promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein (and any attachment).