WASHINGTON – In a rebuke to the Obama administration, government auditors are calling for the cancellation of an $8.3 billion Medicare program that Republicans have criticized as a political ploy.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says in a report to be released today that the funds the administration has earmarked for quality bonuses to Medicare Advantage insurance plans would put off the pain of cuts to the plans under the new health care law. Most of the money would go to plans rated merely average.

The administration says that without the bonuses, many plans wouldn’t have an incentive to improve quality.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says the GAO report suggests the administration abused its authority, pumping money into the plans to avoid more criticism over unpopular cuts.

Medicare Advantage is a private alternative to the traditional health care program for seniors. More than 3,000 private plans serve about one-fourth of Medicare recipients.