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!

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!

Want Better Retirement? Better Health Care? Learn How to Become a Senior Advocate

Are you concerned about prescription drug prices in Medicare? Perhaps you have a chronic condition and you are worried about how Medicare will cover your bills?

We are less than two months away from a midterm election and a new Congress. It is now more important than ever to make sure your voice is heard in Washington. Last year, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) senior advocates sent 10,000 letters, made phone calls and signed petitions to successfully advocate Congress to ensure chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries have access to the high-quality care through passage of the CHRONIC Care Act.
Let’s build on that success! Better Medicare Alliance has created four voluntary senior advocate task forces. Our task forces are smaller groups of senior advocates that are passionate about certain issues that impact people enrolled in Medicare Advantage. When you sign up to join one of our tasks forces you will gain access to special resources on the part of Medicare Advantage you’re most passionate about.

Join one (or more) of the following task force:

Chronic Disease Task Force
Join our chronic disease task force to protect critical Medicare Advantage chronic disease care and work directly with Better Medicare Alliance to ensure seniors with chronic disease continue to receive high-quality, affordable health care through Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage has been at the forefront of developing and incentivizing ground-breaking ways to prevent, diagnose and treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable (KOPDA) Task Force
Prescription drug prices are on the rise affecting millions of seniors on Medicare Advantage, many of whom struggle to pay the out-of-pocket costs for their life-saving medications. Better Medicare Alliance understands the negative impact high drug prices have on beneficiaries and supports developing policies that make prescription drugs more affordable for everyone. Join our Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable Task Force to ensure seniors on Medicare Advantage have access to affordable and effective prescription medicines.

Medicare Advantage Retiree Plans Task Force
Join our Medicare Advantage Retiree Plans Task Force to protect Medicare Advantage plans provided to retirees by their former employers. Over four million retirees across the country are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage health plan sponsored by a former employer. These seniors depend on high-quality, affordable care, and continued funding for these plans.

Medicare My Way Task Force
Join our Medicare My Way Task Force to work directly with Better Medicare Alliance to advise the government on how to improve Medicare and advocate for what services you think your Medicare Advantage plans should cover, including supplemental benefits.

What happens next?

If you join our task forces, participation is free and completely volunteer-based – we just ask for 1-2 hours of your time each month. As an organization with over 115+ Allies we want to represent the voice of Medicare Advantage seniors around the nation.

The most important goal of our task force is education. Education is key for advocating for Medicare Advantage. We will provide you with legislative updates and talking points, so you can better advocate for each issue.

Some of the activities you will be asked to participate in when you join a task force include surveys, petitions, calls to other seniors, calls to offices of members of congress, and drafting letters and op-eds about positive experiences.