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!

Have questions? Email us at community@bettermedicarealliance.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

Better Medicare Alliance Advocacy Update – September 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz

Hello BMA advocates!

Have you heard the news?  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published information on Medicare Advantage plan premiums and offerings for 2020 enrollment. CMS found that the Medicare Advantage average monthly premium is expected to decrease by 14% next year, hitting the lowest premium cost in 13 years!

This is great news for seniors and individuals with disabilities enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans nationwide! In a time of premium increases in other markets, premiums in Medicare Advantage will remain low, while plan choices and benefits continue to expand.

In 2020, enrollment in Medicare Advantage is expected to reach 40% of all Medicare-eligible individuals to a total of over 24 million people.  This growth is a testament to the value Medicare Advantage provides, offering high-quality care at affordable costs.

At BMA, we recognize the importance of making sure beneficiaries are equipped with comprehensive, accurate information about their Medicare coverage options to inform enrollment decisions in a way that best meets their health and financial needs.  We believe all Medicare beneficiaries should be active choosers of their care.   As the annual Open Enrollment Period approaches, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with available tools and resources designed to make comparing your options easier.

Recently, CMS updated the Medicare Plan Finder, an online tool where you can explore and compare plans available in your area.  BMA actively participated in the revision process, citing your experiences and concerns in the recommendations we offered to CMS to improve the Plan Finder. We are happy to report that the new Plan Finder tool is much more user friendly.  If you have a MyMedicare account, you can now pull directly from your claims data to build an accurate drug list. Validated users also have access to 24/7 web chat assistance to help with both technical and enrollment questions.

In addition to the Plan Finder, you will likely soon be receiving the 2020 Medicare & You Handbook, which is updated annually to assist beneficiaries with enrollment decisions. Using the Handbook, you can learn more about Medicare coverage options, the Open Enrollment Process, and what services are covered under Medicare. Your feedback on the Handbook offered in the last few years has helped BMA propose changes to improve the Handbook. We are currently viewing the Handbook and are pleased to see how our recommendations were implemented by CMS.

Finally, are you looking for a quick reference to get some easy and understandable information on your Medicare options before Open Enrollment?  We suggest our BMA Open Enrollment Guide. The BMA Guide provides a comprehensive overview of key differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage to help you make an informed choice during the enrollment period. We update this guide regularly, so check back to find our most recent edition prior to Open Enrollment.

If you utilize any of these resources to gather information and compare Medicare choices this fall, we’d love to hear your feedback. Send our team an email at community@bettermedicarealliance.org to help us improve them in ways that meet your needs.

Thank you for your advocacy for Medicare Advantage and our efforts here at BMA!

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO, Better Medicare Alliance

HIT Update

With members back in Washington following the August recess, BMA continues to advocate for suspension of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT).  The HIT, which could increase health care costs or reduce access to supplemental benefits for seniors on Medicare Advantage, was recently reviewed by a Task Force of the Senate Finance Committee.  BMA advocates took the opportunity to make their voices heard by members of the Task Force, sending more than 1,015 letters urging members to #StoptheHITonSeniors.

The Committee Task Force was charged with identifying long-term solutions for six unique health taxes.  In its recent report, the Task Force did not come to a consensus on how to address the tax provisions, but one thing was made very clear: none of the participating parties advocated for continuation of the HIT.

Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who have led efforts to delay and/or repeal the HIT in the Senate, urged their colleagues to take immediate action to prevent higher costs from being passed down to consumers.  BMA recognizes their advocacy on behalf of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, and encourages advocates residing in Colorado or New Hampshire to join us on Twitter to thank Senator Shaheen and Senator Gardner for their support of the coverage seniors choose.

Don’t live in Colorado or New Hampshire?  It is still critically important that we keep up the pressure on Congress to delay or repeal the HIT. If you are concerned about the tax impacting your coverage, we encourage you to speak out. Call or write your members of Congress – whether for the first time, or to reach out again. Write a letter to the editor and make sure other Medicare beneficiaries in your area understand the HIT and how it could impact their lives. Visit our website for more information on the HIT to help you effectively address this issue with lawmakers.

Featured Advocacy Action

At BMA, we value your stories and experiences with Medicare Advantage to help support our outreach to members of Congress and their staff.  We know beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage represent a diverse group of seniors and individuals with disabilities from across the country, and we work hard to demonstrate how Medicare Advantage offers the quality care you need.  Your feedback— in your own words– makes the difference.  That’s why we’ve been collecting stories from advocates nationwide.

We are extremely close to having collected wonderful advocate stories from all fifty states, but we need your help to make sure every state is included. If you live in the following states, head to medicaremyway.com to share your Medicare Advantage story today!

Alaska

Delaware

Hawaii

Minnesota

New Hampshire

Nebraska

North Dakota

Vermont

West Virginia

Wyoming

Our Top Advocates

  • Judith C. (Carmel, CA)
  • Luther A. (Fillmore, CA)
  • Maryann V. (San Bernardino, CA)

BMA Ambassadors work directly with BMA to further engage in advocacy activities, like hosting events, recruiting new members, and contacting Congress.

The Better Medicare Alliance Ambassador Facebook Group is a self-selected committee of the Better Medicare Alliance’s most engaged senior advocates dedicated to strengthening health care for seniors and people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

 

Better Medicare Alliance Advocacy Update – July 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz

Hello BMA Advocates!

Since 1966, Medicare has provided critical health and economic security for America’s seniors and their families. As we reflect on Medicare’s success in recognition of the program’s 54th anniversary, we also see new opportunities and challenges in meeting the needs and expectations of today’s Medicare beneficiaries. With 10,000 new seniors becoming eligible for Medicare every day, this new generation of older adults have different needs than those of 50 years ago when the main concern was coverage for hospital costs for acute illness. Given the advancements in treatments and cures, we are living longer, and many seniors are healthier than ever.

Yet, many are also living with complex chronic conditions and managing their medical and non-clinical needs is more important than ever. Fortunately, Medicare has changed over the decades to meet these needs. Part D coverage for prescription drugs was one of those changes, as was the option of Medicare Advantage, which is uniquely designed to care for seniors today. Attention to care coordination, preventive services and early intervention offered by Medicare Advantage are effective steps to help those living with chronic diseases manage their care and life healthier lives. With innovative solutions and a focus on value-based care, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) believes Medicare Advantage is the future of Medicare and offers a model for the nation.

In July, thought leaders, plans, providers and community partners in health care from across the country convened in Washington for BMA’s 2019 Medicare Advantage Summit. Over two days, we discussed the future of Medicare and highlighted the unique capacity of Medicare Advantage to meet the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. With outstanding speakers, including Secretary Alex Azar of Health and Human Services, Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Adam Boehler of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana, and Larry Merlo, CEO Of CVS Health, participants explored opportunities to improve patient care, remove barriers to care, and reduce health disparities. Over 250 individuals attended the Summit, with more than 36% traveling from out of state to take part in this one of a kind opportunity to learn more about Medicare Advantage.

BMA Summit Photos

With the help of this community, BMA has been educating members and cultivating strong bipartisan support for Medicare Advantage in Congress. In July, BMA hosted an educational briefing for Congressional staff, unveiling new data that show the critical role Medicare Advantage plays in serving an increasingly diverse population of beneficiaries and shielding low and modest-income individuals from high-out-of-pocket costs. The briefing, entitled Medicare Advantage: Enrollment and Demographic Trends, included a presentation by Anne Tumlinson of Anne Tumlinson Innovations and a panel discussion with three BMA ally organizations: Meals on Wheels, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Minority Quality Forum. BMA Medicare Advantage Champions Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) also addressed the crowd, urging Congressional staff to learn more about Medicare Advantage. We are excited to report that the event was widely attended, with nearly 100 Congressional staffers joining to learn more about demographic trends and consumer cost protections in Medicare Advantage.

BMA Congressional briefing

In April, we reached out to you about a proposal to eliminate drug rebates in Medicare, which would have raised the cost of premiums for seniors on Medicare Advantage. Seniors like you spoke out to protect Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, sending nearly 3,000 letters to Congress opposing the proposal and calling on lawmakers to tell the Administration to protect affordable prescription drug coverage for all beneficiaries. In July, we saw your hard work pay off, as the Administration withdrew the proposal after listening to groups like BMA and our senior advocates. This victory on behalf of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries proves how critical your voice is to protect high-quality, affordable health coverage available with Medicare Advantage.

Thank you for speaking out to support and improve Medicare Advantage!

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO

Active Choosers Participate in BMA Medicare Academy Month

By Daniella Chambers, BMA Advocacy Manager

Throughout July, seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities across the country competed to expand their knowledge of Medicare Advantage as part of Medicare Academy Month. This educational series provided Medicare-eligible seniors the chance to learn more about their Medicare choices, and gave BMA advocates and ambassadors an opportunity to learn new information through participation in weekly activities and quizzes.

Participation in Medicare Academy Month was phenomenal! Over 73,000 advocates tuned in to the series to learn more about Medicare Advantage by viewing graphics and short videos on Facebook and over 150 advocates competed for prizes by completing weekly quizzes.

With all points totaled, BMA congratulates the following advocates for their success in learning more about Medicare Advantage during Medicare Academy Month:

Thank you to everyone who participated throughout the month of July! Your dedication to learning more about Medicare Advantage and enhancing your role as an active chooser is so encouraging and much appreciated.

Looking to share what you learned with others? You can access resources from Medicare Academy Month online any time. Visit our website for more information.

Continued Advocacy During August Recess

During the month of August, members of Congress head out of Washington to return to their home districts. Many will be meeting with their constituents. Recess provides great opportunities for you to make sure your members understand and support Medicare Advantage by connecting with them locally!

To find events in your area, check out Town Hall Project, a web resource dedicated to helping you locate upcoming events with your elected officials. Want more information on Medicare Advantage to prepare for your discussions? Visit our website, where you can find our advocacy toolkit and other resources.

If you attend a townhall or event with your members during the August recess, we would love to hear about your experience! Contact us by email at community@bettermedicarealliance.org and we will connect for more information about the event and the feedback you received.

Join Our Task Forces

* Join our Medicare My Way Task Force

* Join our Medicare Advantage Retiree Plans Task Force

* Join the Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable Task Force

* Join the Protect Our Care Task Force

* Join our Chronic Disease Task Force

Featured Action: Share Your Story

BMA is proud to be a leading source for information on beneficiary experience in Medicare Advantage. Through your stories, comments, and letters, you help us understand what works well and where we as a community can advocate for improvements. This information is critical as we work to shape the future of Medicare today and in the days to come.

Our Top Advocates

  • Jose D. (Hialeah, FL)
  • Susan B. (Jefferson, TX)
  • Sharon R. (Fort Worth, TX)

BMA Ambassadors work directly with BMA to further engage in advocacy activities, like hosting events, recruiting new members, and contacting Congress.

The Better Medicare Alliance Ambassador Facebook Group is a self-selected committee of the Better Medicare Alliance’s most engaged senior advocates dedicated to strengthening health care for seniors and people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

 

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.