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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BMA Educates Hill Staff on Demographic Trends in Medicare Advantage

Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) hosted a briefing for Congressional staff on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The event, titled Medicare Advantage: Enrollment & Demographic Trends, unveiled new data showing the critical role Medicare Advantage plays in shielding beneficiaries from high out-of-pocket costs. Findings also showed that Medicare Advantage serves an increasingly diverse population with complex care needs.

Anne Tumlinson, CEO at Anne Tumlinson Innovations, presented key findings from her new report sponsored by BMA, entitled Medicare Advantage Provides Key Financial Protections to Low and Modest Income Populations. The analysis found while there are many similarities between the populations enrolled in Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare in terms of age, gender, and prevalence of chronic conditions, Medicare Advantage plans enroll a higher number of beneficiaries with incomes below $24,000 (or 200% of the federal poverty level). In addition, the analysis showed that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have significantly lower premium and out-of-pocket costs and are less likely to be cost-burdened than their peers in Traditional Medicare.

“There are a growing number of families in this country that are suffering from problems with the health care delivery system. It’s not meeting their needs. Medicare Advantage is an exciting part of the toolkit to solve those delivery system problems,” noted Tumlinson.

Two of BMA’s Medicare Advantage Champions in Congress addressed the attendees, highlighted the value of Medicare Advantage to their constituents, and emphasized the importance of continued bipartisan support for Medicare Advantage. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) stressed the importance of improving understanding of Medicare choices and increasing access to high-quality care offered by Medicare Advantage.

“Seniors deserve the dignity of knowing they can see the doctor when they need to. That’s the dignity of Medicare Advantage. This is an example of what Medicare should be about,” noted Representative Cárdenas as he urged Congressional staff to learn more about Medicare Advantage.

The briefing included a panel discussion moderated by Allyson Y. Schwartz, BMA President & CEO. The panelists were Autumn Campbell, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Gary Puckrein, Ph.D., President & CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, and Lucy Theilheimer, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer at Meals on Wheels. They discussed the role of strategic partnerships between Medicare Advantage and community partners to address social risk factors and address disparities based on race, ethnicity and gender. All three organizations are part of BMA’s coalition of Allies.

The event was widely attended, with almost 100 Congressional staffers and other interested parties joining to learn more about consumer cost protections and the diverse population of in Medicare Advantage. Participants represented 46 House and Senate offices, a testament to widespread Congressional support for Medicare Advantage.

To view the briefing please click here.

Administration Withdraws Proposed Rebate Rule

Seniors nationwide struggle to pay the out-of-pocket costs for their life-saving medications. As prescription drug prices continue to rise, efforts to protect seniors and keep drug costs down have become a priority for members of Congress and the Administration.

In April, the Administration issued a proposed rule to eliminate drug rebates in Medicare, known as the Rebate Rule. This rule intended to change the way in which pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate lower drug prices with manufacturers and how plans use the rebated funds.

Currently, rebates are a vital tool used by health plans to lower Part D premiums for beneficiaries. These rebates are negotiated with drug manufacturers by Pharmacy Benefit Managers and used to reduce out-of-pocket costs for all Part D beneficiaries. The Administration wanted to redirect the rebates to be used only for those beneficiaries with high price specialty drugs. It was acknowledged that this would result in increased premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and in some cases, fewer supplemental benefits, for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage.

Analysis by Department of Health and Human Services, as well as another by the Congressional Budget Office projected that the proposed rule, would increase beneficiary premiums, would cost the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars a year and would likely not reduce prescription drug prices. With this proposed rule set to jeopardize the affordable prescription drug coverage provided in Medicare Advantage, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) advocates rallied to keep prescription drugs affordable for all beneficiaries who rely on this coverage for essential medications.

Our community of advocates sent 2,962 letters to the Senate Finance Committee urging them to oppose the proposed rule and 1,229 advocates watched the Committee hearing on rebates to learn more about the role of Pharmacy Benefit Managers. Additionally, 2,710 advocates joined the Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable Task Force to stay informed on changes that impact MA-PD plans and prescription drug pricing.

Thanks to these efforts, as well as those of BMA ally organizations which also advocated to protect MA-PD plans, the Administration announced on July 11, 2019, that it is withdrawing the proposed rule!

BMA applauded this decision and is pleased to see our advocacy make a difference in protecting low premiums for you and the millions of beneficiaries in MA-PD plans. BMA shares the Administration and Congress’s interest in reducing prescription drug costs for consumers. Working with the Administration and Congress, we will continue to seek solutions to achieve this goal. And, we will support efforts to reduce prices while ensuring that these actions protect the high-quality, affordable prescription drug coverage and health care provided in MA-PD plans.

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.