Seniors’ Coalition Launches Major New Ad and Grassroots Campaign to Protect Medicare Advantage Coverage

New payment cuts would threaten seniors’ benefits and choices;

Campaign urges CMS to maintain current payment levels

As CMS prepares to set 2015 Medicare Advantage payment rates, AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) is launching its largest-ever mobilization to remind Washington that seniors are following this issue closely and to urge the Medicare agency to protect them from further harm by maintaining current payment levels.

Last year the Medicare Advantage program was hit by a 6.5 percent cut in payments, which have already caused benefit reductions, higher out-of-pocket costs, and loss of provider choices for seniors.  This latest phase of the “Seniors Are Watching” campaign warns that additional Medicare Advantage payment rate reductions would further put at risk the benefits and choices that seniors like and want to keep.

“Seniors are watching because they depend on their Medicare Advantage benefits,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni. “Unless current payment rates are maintained, seniors in Medicare Advantage will lose benefits and choices on which they rely today.”

The sustained campaign will include:

  • Television, digital, print, and display advertising in key markets around the country and in Washington, D.C.
  • Grassroots mobilization of CMC’s 1.5 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Throughout this campaign, seniors will be visiting congressional district offices, participating in town hall meetings, and sharing their concerns with Washington through phone calls, letters, and social media.
  • Engagement of CMC’s growing social media community.

“We’ll have millions and millions of seniors standing up,” said Mary Kay Boerner of Columbus, Ohio, a Medicare Advantage beneficiary since 2009.

Medicare Advantage is the part of Medicare through which seniors are able to choose comprehensive medical coverage from a private health insurance plan. More than 14 million seniors have chosen to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan because of the better services, higher-quality care, and additional benefits these plans provide.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) cut funding to the Medicare Advantage program by $200 billion. These funding reductions combined with other changes to the program resulted in payment cuts of 6.5 percent last year. These were real cuts in payments – not reductions in rates of projected growth. The new health insurance tax that started January 1, 2014 will also impact Medicare Advantage beneficiaries this year.

“There’s been enough damage done to it already without adding more,” said William Thompson of Columbus, Ohio, a Medicare Advantage beneficiary since 2006.

CMS, the Medicare agency, each year sets payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans based on a number of factors.  Preliminary 2015 rates are expected to be announced by CMS on February 21, 2014, with final rates expected on April 7, 2014.

Seniors will see the impact of any new payment cuts in late October 2014, when they begin enrolling in their 2015 Medicare Advantage coverage.  Another round of payment cuts would mean seniors learning that out-of-pocket costs are higher, benefits have been cut, provider access is restricted, and choice of plans is more limited.

“If something happens to my plan that I have to change, I don’t know what I will do,” said Betty Watford, of Tallahassee, Florida, a Medicare Advantage beneficiary since 2011.

Founded in 1999, the Coalition for Medicare Choices is a national grassroots organization of more than 1.5 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  To learn more, visit www.MedicareChoices.org and follow the coalition on Twitter (@protectmyma) and Facebook.

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