Medicare Advantage is an option for seniors to get Medicare coverage through a private health insurance provider. More than 900,000 Pennsylvania seniors rely on Medicare Advantage for their health care coverage.
Medicare Advantage is popular with seniors because many plans provide additional services that are not available under traditional Medicare. For instance, many seniors in Medicare Advantage take advantage of prevention and wellness services like health risk assessments and fitness programs. Others can benefit from Medicare Advantage’s care coordination services designed to assist seniors in managing multiple chronic conditions.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s health care law made significant cuts to Medicare Advantage to pay for new entitlements. This $300 billion cut is expected to be in full effect by 2017. We have already seen the detrimental impact of the first of the cuts put in place for 2014. Recent news reports have highlighted the fact that these cuts have caused some plans to drop health care providers from their networks.
On Friday, February 21st, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced more cuts to Medicare Advantage payment rates as a result of the President’s health care law.
Many Western Pennsylvania seniors have written to my office to share their positive experiences with Medicare Advantage and to express their concerns with these cuts.
Robert from Hollsopple wrote to me, saying, “I belong to a Medicare Advantage plan which has proven to be very successful to maintaining my health.”
Pamela from Murrysville said, “Please do not make any new cuts to Medicare Advantage, which would hurt millions of American seniors through higher costs, reduced benefits, and fewer choices in coverage options. No more cuts to Medicare Advantage!”
What do these cuts mean for seniors like Robert and Pamela?
First, Medicare Advantage cuts will have a significant impact on seniors’ pocketbooks. This may come in the form of a reduction in benefits or higher out-of-pocket costs and increased premiums for seniors living on a fixed income.
Cutting Medicare Advantage will also harm seniors’ ability to access health care services, and it will limit their choices. Not only will it force plans to drop out of the market, those that do stay in the market may have to narrow their network of providers.
The President’s health care law was supposed to lower costs and improve access to care. If you liked your plan, you could keep it. If you liked your doctor, you could keep him or her. Cuts to Medicare Advantage break these promises, hurting seniors who count on Medicare.
Instead of limiting seniors’ access to the highest quality care available, we should be empowering them to make choices about what best suits them. Instead of reducing access to care, we should be expanding it. Instead of cutting Medicare Advantage, President Obama should work with Congress to repeal the harmful effects of his health care law and find alternative solutions that will lower costs for seniors.