GUEST OPINION: Keep Medicare Advantage Strong
Bucks and Montgomery county residents value Medicare Advantage. As our community’s voice in Congress, I’m working to make sure beneficiaries who rely on this program keep their benefits.
Medicare Advantage is the healthcare choice of more than one million individuals across Pennsylvania, for seniors and disabled people alike. In fact, 41% of our Medicare-eligible population uses Medicare Advantage, including over 43,000 constituents right here in our district. For those enrolled, the satisfaction rates show the impact: In survey after survey, at least 9 out of 10 beneficiaries say they like the quality of care and the coverage.
I routinely hear from constituents who share this viewpoint. They talk about the affordable costs and zero-premium health plans, they mention the financial protection of out-of-pocket expense caps, and they rave about the additional benefits, from nurse helplines and in-home care to free health screenings and free gym memberships.
By bringing these types of benefits to seniors, Medicare Advantage improves their well-being. This is a good in itself. But as we look to the future, Medicare Advantage takes on even greater importance. Some 10,000 Americans reach Medicare age every day, so we’ll need to find ways to offer high-quality care to this burgeoning population without bankrupting the government.
Preventative medicine and healthcare innovation will contribute to our success. Medicare Advantage prioritizes individual wellness in a unique way. Health screenings, disease management programs, and many other preventative service are provided by most plans free of charge, which helps maximize usage rates.
Physicians and other health experts have been asserting for years that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true in geriatric care. Encouraging seniors to obtain proper healthcare can help delay age-related declines, detect medical problems early while they are easier and less expensive to treat, and help avoid complications that can land seniors in the hospital for a pricey stay. This means taxpayers will ultimately have to ante up less money per capita to fund seniors’ healthcare.
At the same time, Medicare Advantage health plans are exploring new ways to deliver services. Since Medicare Advantage taps the free market, there is competition among health plans that promotes optimization. Medicare Advantage health plans are taking up new technologies to monitor seniors’ health and provide in-home care between doctor visits. This can help improve patient outcomes while also reaching seniors who have more difficulty getting to a medical center, whether for health reasons or because they lack transportation.
Care coordination, or what some refer to as a patient-centered medical home, is another advancement being utilized in Medicare Advantage. It’s about getting all of the pieces of a patient’s care plan to line up. Doctors treat the whole person, integrate mental health and lifestyle factors, and monitor conditions proactively while keeping all members of the care team on the same page. This approach to healthcare can promote wellness and improve patient outcomes when treating disease.
Those of us responsible for overseeing government spending need to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted, but we must also fight to protect programs that pay off over the long run. Medicare Advantage makes the right investments in seniors’ wellness, which is good for them, their families, our broader communities, and our government budget. That is why I strongly oppose funding cuts to Medicare Advantage, which would negatively impact access and use of cost-saving preventative services.
Washington needs to work together to keep Medicare Advantage strong, and the Americans who rely on it healthy.