Event Recap: Medicare Advantage 101 Hill Briefing

Better Medicare Alliance hosted a Hill briefing for Congressional staff on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.  The event, titled Medicare Advantage 101: A Primer, introduced staffers to fundamental concepts in Medicare Advantage, highlighted the differences between Medicare Advantage and Original Medicare, and explained the Medicare Advantage payment model.

James Michel, BMA Director of Policy & Research, provided an overview of Medicare Advantage plan types, enrollment, beneficiary demographics, and access. He also presented information on payment, quality measurement, and oversight in Medicare Advantage.

The briefing included a panel discussion moderated by Allyson Y. Schwartz, BMA President & CEO. Panelists included Chet Speed, Vice President of Public Policy for the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), Griffin Myers, Co-Founder & Chief Medical Officer at Oak Street Health, and Jane Gilbert, Director of Retiree Health Care for the Teacher’s Retirement System of the State of Kentucky.  All three organizations are part of BMA’s coalition of allies. Panelists discussed key issues in Medicare Advantage and how policymakers can help modernize Medicare by supporting Medicare Advantage.

Following the panel discussion, Congressional staff had the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists to better inform their understanding of Medicare Advantage. They raised questions concerning the urban housing crisis and its impact on seniors, prescription drug costs, expansion of supplemental benefits, preventative care, and improving Medicare Advantage education for seniors.

The event was widely attended, with over 80 Congressional staff in attendance to learn more about high-quality, affordable care available with Medicare Advantage plans. Participants represented more than 45 House and Senate offices.  These are offices BMA will look to as we build support for Medicare Advantage. The briefing was a great first step towards increasing understanding and bi-partisan support for Medicare Advantage.

Medicare Advantage Enrollment Period is Great Opportunity for Active Choosers

New enrollment period part of additional consumer protections for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries

Have you heard about the new opportunity to switch your Medicare Advantage plan in 2019?  If your current plan is not satisfactory to you, read on to learn more about the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period and your options for enrolling in a different plan that would better meet your needs.

Previously, individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans were able to drop their Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (January 1 – February 14 annually).  These individuals could also sign up for a standalone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan.  This year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has replaced the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period with the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

The new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period implements changes that were called for in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan law passed by Congress in 2017. This policy change allows those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans more flexibility to make changes to their coverage.

During this new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, which runs from January 1 – March 31 every year, individuals enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will have a one-time opportunity to consider the following health coverage options:

  • Switch to a different Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without Part D Prescription Drug Coverage).
  • Drop a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare.
  • Sign up for a Part D Prescription Drug Plan if electing to return to Original Medicare.

The reasons to consider switching your plan during the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment period vary from person to person.  While Medicare Advantage plans consistently deliver high quality Medicare Part A (hospital) and Medicare Part B (medical) benefits, provider networks and extra benefits such as vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage will be different depending on the plan you select.

Every fall, your plan will send out an Annual Notice of Change.  This document details any changes to your benefits or plan regulations that you should be aware of.  Additionally, if your Medicare Advantage plan includes prescription drug coverage, your plan may change its prescription drug formulary at any time.  You will receive notice of these changes from your plan as they occur.

As your health needs change, it is always important to make sure that your coverage provides for the care you need at a price you can afford.  If your current plan doesn’t meet your health care needs, or does not cover the medications you need, or doesn’t fit your budget, the new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period is your opportunity to seek out an alternative. Better Medicare Alliance encourages you to review your options by using the Medicare Plan Finder, an on-line, interactive tool that helps locate plans available in your area and allows you to compare coverage.

You can also consult a broker, agent,  counselor through the SHIP program or include a family member or caregiver to help you have the information and guidance to make the decision for you.

If you choose to change your coverage during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period, your new coverage will begin on the first day of the month after your request for new coverage is received.