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GOP rep.: Obamacare disrupting Medicare for seniors

If President Obama won't agree to scrap his health care reform law entirely, Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said Saturday, the least he can do is provide targeted relief to senior citizens on Medicare Advantage who have watched their costs grow and their provider networks shrink under Obamacare.

"Because of Obamacare, many seniors enrolled in the popular Medicare Advantage program are paying higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs," Johnson said in the weekly Republican address. "Many are losing access to their physicians, and many more will, unless the president takes action."

Medicare Advantage is a type of insurance plan from a private insurer that contracts with Medicare to provide health coverage to older Americans. The health care reform law reduced payments to providers participating in Medicare Advantage plans, and though the law's proponents have said the reform would save money while rewarding providers for enhancing the quality of their care, foes have pointed to stories of people losing access to their doctors due to the law's regulations.

Johnson said doctors in his district have told him their patients were "blindsided" by changes to their insurance coverage, and he cited one constituent who said her nearly 30-year relationship with a favorite eye doctor was ended because of Obamacare.

"Remember how the president said he didn't want to interfere in these relationships?" he asked. "More than 794,000 seniors in Ohio rely on Medicare Advantage - that's hundreds of thousands of broken promises-in-waiting in just one state. Older Americans deserve better. They deserve the benefits they were promised. If the president won't help us repeal this law in its entirety, he ought to step up here, do the right thing and protect our seniors."

Last month, the administration tweaked Obamacare's rules to provide more flexibility to those who had signed up for insurance in the law's marketplace. The adjustment, according to the administration, would allow consumers to switch to an insurance plan with a more "inclusive provider network," provided they purchase roughly the same level of coverage from the same company.

The fix hasn't pacified Republicans, though, who continue to take every opportunity to criticize the law and have elevated their complaints as a primary issue ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Democrats are wary of a repeat of their disastrous showing in the 2010 midterms, when the GOP first put Obamacare on trial, but they've largely emphasized a "mend-it-don't-end-it" approach to the law.

The political sniping comes at a crucial time for the law's insurance exchanges, which will end a six-month open enrollment period at the end of March. The administration has said roughly 4.2 million people have signed up for private insurance through the law's marketplaces, and officials are orchestrating a massive public campaign to get as many people as possible to enroll before the end of the month.

In his own address on Saturday, the president touted his move this week to expand overtime pay, saying the presidential memorandum he signed Thursday ordering a review of the country's overtime laws will help expand economic opportunity.

"For more than 75 years, the 40-hour workweek and the overtime protections that come with it have helped countless workers climb the ladder of success. But, today, an overtime exception originally meant for highly paid employees now applies to workers who earn as little as $23,660 a year. It doesn't matter if you do mostly physical labor or if you work 50, 60, even 70 hours a week. Your employer may not have to pay you a single extra dime," the president said. "In some cases, this rule makes it possible for workers earning a salary to actually be paid less than the minimum wage, and it means that business owners who treat their employees fairly can be undercut by competitors who don't."

"That's not right," he added. "So we're going to update those overtime rules to restore that basic principle that if you have to work more, you should be able to earn more."