Tens of thousands of seniors all across the country have spoken out against a deep new cut to Medicare Advantage recently proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees the Medicare program. Seniors are calling, writing, and meeting with congressional offices urging their representatives to contact CMS to oppose this cut before it is finalized on April 1.
Medicare Advantage is the part of Medicare through which private health plans provide comprehensive medical coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. More than 14 million Americans, roughly 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, are enrolled in Medicare Advantage because of the better services, higher-quality care, out-of-pocket savings, and additional benefits it provides.
CMS recently proposed a 2.2 percent reduction in Medicare Advantage payments for 2014, at a time when medical costs are projected to increase by three percent. The new proposed payment cut compounds the hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare Advantage cuts and new health insurance tax on Medicare Advantage policies included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A recent report from Oliver Wyman estimates that the cumulative impact of these cuts and the new health insurance tax will result in an estimated 6.9 to 7.8 percent payment cut to Medicare Advantage plans in 2014, leading to benefit reductions and premium increases of $50 to $90 per month for a typical Medicare Advantage beneficiary. New Oliver Wyman data provide a breakdown of how much seniors will be impacted in specific states.
America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC), which represents over 1.3 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, recently launched a TV ad campaign, called “Drastic,” featuring Medicare Advantage beneficiaries sharing their concerns about what deep new cuts to Medicare Advantage would mean to them. The ad can be viewed at www.MedicareChoices.org.
In response, more than 40,000 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have contacted Congress and 46,000 seniors have “liked” CMC on Facebook – in just four weeks.
More than 130 members of Congress from both parties have sent letters to CMS sharing their concerns about the impact the new cut will have on seniors. These letters have focused on, among other things, the fact that in setting Medicare Advantage payment rates CMS is assuming a cut in physician payment rates that everyone in Washington knows will never happen.
“CMS continues the illogical policy of assuming the scheduled 25 percent reduction in the Medicare physician fee schedule (SGR) will be implemented on January 1, 2014,” said a bipartisan letter signed by 98 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. “The assumption on the SGR is particularly problematic because it almost certainly will turn out to be wrong and it directly translates into lower funding to support the health benefits of the 14 million Medicare beneficiaries who currently are enrolled in MA plans.”
“We ask that in developing the Medicare Advantage rates, CMS assume that Congress will enact a Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) fix as it has done for the past 11 years,” said a bipartisan letter from 22 senators.
Seniors Speak Out:
Howard Brown, of Centennial, CO:
“When selecting my health care insurance coverage, I took a close look at the benefits and the costs. I selected a Medicare Advantage program because it provided comprehensive benefits that I needed and wanted. Like most on the Medicare Advantage program, I am happy with my coverage and don’t want to see any more cuts that will lead to higher costs and reduced benefits for me.”
Marietta Hanley of Auburn, NY:
“Living on a small restricted limited income in a world where the cost of living goes up regularly, my Medicare Advantage plan has consistently provided me with coverage that has allowed me to get the medications I need, see the doctors who treat me best, and have dental care for the past four years. A cut to this program would be devastating to me”
Margaret Hill, of Knoxville, TN:
“My husband just had two operations and is currently doing much better. If they keep cutting things or raising what I pay for my Medicare Advantage plan, it won’t just affect me, but it will also affect what we can afford for my husband’s care. It really will hit us hard.”
Mary Ellen Jackson of Marietta, OH:
“A few years ago, I suffered a stroke. After that happened, my healthcare costs increased significantly. I am currently enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan and I cannot afford an additional $50-$90 per month for my healthcare. These cuts are wrong. These cuts should not happen.”
Dr. Jack Mathews of Molalla, OR:
“Medicare Advantage has helped a great deal in keeping my wife and me out of the doctor’s office. We attend a group exercise class three times a week that helps us stay fit and heart healthy. It seems short sighted to me to cut back on a program that helps keep rising heath costs down. I would urge those in power to find cuts elsewhere in our federal budget other than Medicare Advantage.”
W. Calvin Melton, Sr. Ph.D, of Tallahassee, FL:
“Through my Medicare Advantage plan, I have access to affordable and reliable coverage along with important benefits like wellness and preventive care programs, which are not provided by traditional Medicare. I am very concerned by the federal government’s repeated attacks on Medicare Advantage plans, and the impact these cuts will have on raising costs and lowering the standard of care for the millions of seniors like me.”
Hal T. Sharp, of Salt Lake City, UT
“I support Senator Hatch and Congressman Matheson as they fight for us on Medicare Advantage. Elaine and I live on a fixed income and we cannot afford higher medical costs or to have our health benefits reduced.”
Ron & Barb Ulmer of Williamsport, PA:
“Having Medicare Advantage coverage is so important to us as a family. We truly appreciate Congress’ efforts to protect the plan.”
Manuel Vorher, of Salt Lake City, UT
“Medicare Advantage is a good system and has taken care of my medical needs. Medicare Advantage works very well, and I simply cannot afford to have my benefits reduced.”
Robert Williams of Raleigh, NC:
“I like my Medicare Advantage coverage. Unlike the government’s conventional fee-for-service Medicare structure, my plan covers important services like basic check-ups, prescription medicines, long-term health planning, exercise and fitness classes—all under one plan. In essence, my Medicare Advantage is helping me to stay healthy and in-shape before health services are even needed.”
Shirley M. Wind, of Chesterfield, VA:
“Medicare Advantage has made a tremendous difference in allowing me to maintain an active lifestyle. Cutting funds to this program would be a huge mistake.”