We work closely with over 400,000 senior advocates to provide information about what Better Medicare Alliance is up to and how you can get involved. Make sure to check back here for regular updates on all things Medicare Advantage!

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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.

Upcoming Health Insurance Tax Could Increase Costs for Seniors

The rising costs of health care remain a great concern to seniors and disabled individuals across the United States. As the new Congress begins its work following the government shutdown, Members face a decision on a multi-billion-dollar tax on health insurance coverage that would impact the costs and benefits under Medicare Advantage.

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), an annual tax was imposed on health insurance premiums called the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). The HIT is a tax that applies to individual policies, small group plans, employers who are not self-insured, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Part D, and Medicare Advantage. If you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Part D plan, the HIT could have a significant impact on you.

The HIT would likely result in increases in plan premium costs, less cost sharing reductions for beneficiaries, fewer supplemental benefits provided under plans, or a combination of all three. The HIT has been suspended in previous years, but it is scheduled to return in 2020. If it allowed to go into effect, annual plan premiums could increase by $241 for the average beneficiary and approximately $500 for the average couple on Medicare Advantage. Research shows that over 25% of the financial burden of the HIT is carried by Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D enrollees.

We know beneficiaries value their Medicare Advantage coverage for the high-quality, affordable care it provides. More than half of all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries live on less than $30,000 a year and most live on fixed incomes. Protecting seniors and individuals on disabilities in Medicare Advantage from cost increases should be a high priority for policymakers.
Suspending the HIT for 2020 is one of the most direct ways for Congress to provide financial relief for seniors and disabled individuals who rely on Medicare Advantage plans to maintain access to quality health care and prescription drug coverage.

Two bills have been introduced that would delay the HIT Tax for 2020 and 2021. In the Senate, S. 172 is sponsored by Senators Cory Gardner (R–CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). A companion bill, H.R. 1398 has been introduced by Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Kenny Marchant (R-TX) in the House of Representatives.

Better Medicare Alliance supports bipartisan efforts to protect Medicare Advantage beneficiaries from rising health care costs. We have voiced our strong support for delaying or repealing the HIT. We will continue to advocate for this action and will continue to monitor legislative progress towards that goal Demonstrating support for Medicare Advantage by requesting a suspension of the HIT for 2020 is critically important. We encourage you to contact your member of Congress and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor these bills. To do so, sign our petition today!