reports that Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to buy Medicare coverage through private insurance companies, could provide one of the largest spending cuts for Congress to pay for an overhaul of the health care system though "President Obama has called (it) a 'wasteful' subsidy for the health insurance industry. ... Debate over Medicare Advantage, which has 10.2 million enrollees — about one-fifth of all Medicare participants — illustrates a broader struggle Congress and Obama face as they look for ways to pay for a $1 trillion overhaul of health care without raising taxes on the middle class or compromising care. It has raised concerns among some seniors who might have to pay more for the program or enroll in regular Medicare instead."
"Medicare Advantage has its roots in the 1970s but was bolstered in 2003 in hopes that private companies could manage Medicare patients more efficiently. ... Critics, including Obama, say the plans offer lower premiums because insurance companies are subsidized by taxpayers at a rate 14 percent higher per patient than regular Medicare. ... The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says eliminating the disparity would save $150 billion over 10 years" (Fritze, 8/4).