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 – June 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz

Hello BMA Advocates!

Did you know that by 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65? One in every five residents will be over 65 years and Medicare enrollment will have doubled to over 40 million individuals.

Currently, Medicare Advantage provides coverage for over 22 million seniors and individuals with disabilities nationwide. As more and more individuals become eligible for Medicare coverage, it is important that they know their options and actively choose how to access their health benefits. Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) believes the 116th Congress provides us a unique opportunity to expand beneficiary knowledge of Medicare Advantage and to work with regulators at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve educational decision-making tools for beneficiaries.

Thanks to your willingness to share your stories, we understand the challenges many beneficiaries face when exploring their Medicare coverage options. We recognize that clear and complete information on Medicare Advantage is needed to make informed decisions about your coverage.

We have used your feedback to inform our advocacy with CMS. In 2017 and 2018, BMA sent recommendations to improve several beneficiary decision-making tools and educational materials. We highlighted ways to make the information on the differences between Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage clearer, more user-friendly, more accurate, and unbiased. And, CMS has been responsive, making changes in the 2018 and 2019 Handbook to make the choices available clearer and easier to understand.

Recently, BMA participated in a preview of the new Medicare Plan Finder, a web tool used to explore options and enroll in Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. We are encouraged by proposed changes made by CMS to improve user experience and ensure beneficiaries are aware of their Medicare choices. We were pleased to see that a good number of the changes were consistent with our recommendations! BMA’s input, based on your comments to us, made a difference!

CMS plans to launch the revised Plan Finder before Open Enrollment this fall. To receive updates on changes to the Medicare Plan Finder, sign up for the Medicare My Way Task Force today! Thank you so much for your involvement.

Your engagement, as well the active involvement of the organizations that make up our alliance make us who we are as BMA and inform and amplify our advocacy for Medicare Advantage. BMA has over 130 ally organizations and they include health providers, health plans, service organizations, and professional associations on the national, state and local levels. This month, BMA recognized the efforts of our ally organizations at our Annual Ally Dinner in Washington, D.C. The event was well -attended, and we thank Fran Soistman, Executive Vice President and Head of Government Services at Aetna for addressing the crowd to encourage continued collaboration and success on behalf of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries like you.

Thank you for using your voice to support and improve Medicare Advantage!

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO
Better Medicare Alliance

Seniors Spur Senate to Review HIT

By Daniella Chambers, BMA Advocacy Manager

With 2020 Open Enrollment quickly approaching, thousands of BMA advocates have called on members of Congress to delay the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) and protect seniors and individuals with disabilities from rising plan premiums. We are pleased to note your voices are making a difference.

In June, the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) announced that delay of the HIT would be included in a proposed tax bill. In addition, the Chairman of the Committee added the HIT to a list of health fees a special Task force will review for long-term fixes. Task force members Senators Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are charged with evaluating the tax and finding a more permanent solution, which may include options to phase out, scale back, or elimination of the tax.

Nationwide, 22 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries rely on Congress to keep their health care costs affordable. If the HIT goes into effect in 2020, millions of Americans on Medicare Advantage plans could face premium increases of $250 or more per year. BMA supports efforts to delay the HIT through 2021 or permanently repeal the tax. Repealing or delaying the HIT is the most direct way for Congress to prevent a spike in premiums.

We continue to call for delay or repeal of the HIT and have written to the Committee urging them to act to avoid increases in premiums. For more information, read our letter to Senate Finance and join the Medicare My Way Task Force today to receive updates on the HIT.

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

Looking Ahead: Medicare Academy Month

You won’t want to miss the activities in store as we celebrate Medicare Academy Month! Join BMA on Facebook every week during July for new articles and activities on the biggest topics in Medicare Advantage. Test your knowledge with weekly quizzes and see how your scores stack up against top advocates in our community as you compete for prizes! For more information and updates follow us on Facebook today.

Our Top Advocates

    • Richard B. (Fort Lauderdale, FL.)
    • Carol F. (Herndon, VA.)
    • Michael H. (Salem, OR.)

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. Join us on Facebook and become part of BMA’s inner circle of advocates.

Better Medicare Alliance is a Twitter leader in discussions about Medicare Advantage and health care for our nation’s seniors. Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Medicare Advantage news.

Better Medicare Alliance Advocacy Update – May 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz

Hello BMA Advocates!

The health care needs of older adults continue to change, as more than half of the Medicare-eligible population experiences multiple chronic conditions. In May, a new report from Avalere Health found that Medicare Advantage outperforms traditional Medicare in caring for dual eligible beneficiaries with chronic conditions. These beneficiaries had 41.1% fewer emergency room visits, 32.9% lower rates of hospitalization, and 11.7% more office visits than their peers enrolled in traditional Medicare. Additionally, they experienced significantly fewer complications, while costing the system 16.7% less.

These findings are consistent with previous reports and they are good news for beneficiaries. BMA uses such findings to advocate for the care and services available in Medicare Advantage that benefit 22 million beneficiaries in MA, including those with multiple chronic conditions. We also use such findings to inform policymakers about the benefits of Medicare Advantage. Together, with your stories, they show that Medicare Advantage is important to those covered by Medicare Advantage today and is a model for providing high-quality care at an affordable cost.

Recently, thanks to your letters, comments, and stories, BMA was able to provide the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) feedback on the “Medicare & You 2020 Handbook.” As Medicare-eligible beneficiaries rely on the Handbook to make a choice of how to receive their Medicare benefits, this was an important opportunity to comment on this resource that seniors and individuals with disabilities rely to get complete and accurate information about their Medicare coverage options. We look forward to assessing the handbook revisions as they are available to identify changes and note areas for improvement to ensure the right information is available to all eligible enrollees.

Toward that purpose, BMA was also pleased by efforts in the House of Representatives to improve Medicare’s educational and enrollment materials. Led by Congressman Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), 62 members of the House signed a letter to CMS urging the agency to begin translating key documents into additional languages beyond English and Spanish. BMA was actively involved in this effort and we applaud Congressman Gomez for his leadership in calling for increasing language access in Medicare education and outreach materials. This action encourages CMS to enable millions of beneficiaries to better understand and act on the choices they have in Medicare coverage and benefits. To receive updates on these efforts, become a member of the Medicare My Way Task Force today!

Thank you for standing up for the care seniors choose with Medicare Advantage. You continue to make a difference in Washington and across the country as committed BMA advocates.

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO
Better Medicare Alliance

Celebrating Our Senior Community: Older Americans Month 2019

By Daniella Chambers, BMA Advocacy Manager

Established in 1963, Older Americans Month is an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of older persons to our country. It is also a time to consider the challenges facing aging Americans and focus on improving services to meet their needs.

Every May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads the national observance of Older Americans Month/strong>. Organizations across the country celebrate and pay tribute to older adults in their communities with special ceremonies and activities. This year, the theme of Older Americans Month was Connect, Create, Contribute. Communities were encouraged to engage and support older adults and recognize the many ways in which they shape our lives.

Throughout the month of May, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) celebrated our senior community of over 400,000 advocates nationwide. In keeping with the 2019 theme of Older Americans Month, we shared resources focused on healthy aging, senior connection, and service. We also sought to learn more about members of our community through a variety of polls, surveys, and discussions across our social media channels.

BMA thanks all members of our beneficiary community for their contribution to our efforts to protect and improve Medicare Advantage during Older Americans Month and throughout the year. We value your insight and feedback as we work to shape the future of Medicare.

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

Update on HIT

In May, Better Medicare Alliance led a Senior Week of Action to stop the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). Thousands of BMA advocates wrote to Congress about the importance of suspending the HIT, and fourteen advocates published letters to the editor in their local newspaper. Click here to read their letters and learn more about the HIT Week of Action.

Looking Ahead

Join BMA throughout the month of July to learn and test your knowledge of Medicare Advantage! During Medicare Academy Month, BMA will host a series of digital activities to help you learn more and stay up to date on your understanding of Medicare Advantage and improve your ability to advocate for this high-quality, affordable care seniors choose. Follow us on Facebook for more information and to participate in weekly challenges with other advocates in our community!

Our Top Advocates

  • Miriam T. (Hershey, PA.)
  • Karen K. (Pittsburgh, PA.)
  • Diana C. (Palm Beach Gardens, FL.)

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. Join us on Facebook and become part of BMA’s inner circle of advocates.

Better Medicare Alliance is a Twitter leader in discussions about Medicare Advantage and health care for our nation’s seniors. Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Medicare Advantage news.

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.

Better Medicare Alliance Advocacy Update – April 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz
Hello BMA Advocates!

With over 100 new members now serving as part of the 116th Congress and the issue of health care reform taking high priority, Members and their staff are looking for information and resources to inform their policy decisions. As experts on Medicare Advantage, BMA welcomes this opportunity to inform and galvanize support for the care seniors choose.

In April, we hosted a Hill briefing for Congressional Staff titled Medicare Advantage 101: A Primer. The event introduced fundamental concepts in Medicare Advantage, highlighted the differences between Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare, and explained the Medicare Advantage payment model. A panel of BMA Allies representing the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), Oak Street Health, and the Teacher’s Retirement System of Kentucky followed and shared insights on care provided under Medicare Advantage, improved health outcomes, and information on how Medicare Advantage is working to address health disparities and address the full health needs of patients.

We are happy to note that this event was widely attended! Over 80 participants joined us to learn more about the high-quality, affordable care available with Medicare Advantage plans. These 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 toward increasing understanding and bi-partisan support for Medicare Advantage.

This month, we also took to the road to share information on Medicare Advantage! BMA was a proud sponsor of Aging in America 2019, hosted by the American Society on Aging. The conference, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, featured a diverse line-up of speakers and exhibitors dedicated to addressing the needs of seniors nationwide.

BMA was happy to participate in the session called “Panel of Pundits” and as an exhibitor, sharing your stories and information on Medicare Advantage with a variety of providers, community-based organizations and researchers.

We look forward to additional opportunities to share information on Medicare Advantage here in Washington and across the country. Thank you for informing our efforts and for your commitment to high-quality, affordable care with Medicare Advantage.

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO
Better Medicare Alliance

Congressional Action Still Needed to Protect Seniors from HIT

By Daniella Chambers, BMA Advocacy Manager

With the introduction of new legislation at the end of February, BMA advocates were busy in March urging members of Congress to support efforts to delay the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) by co-sponsoring Senate Bill 172 and House Bill 1398. To date, our community has sent 21,839 letters to Congress and written 119 letters to the editor as part of our #StopTheHITOnSeniors campaign!

We know that if the HIT goes into effect in 2020, it would result in increases to plan premiums, fewer cost sharing reductions that help beneficiaries, and reductions in supplemental benefits provided under plans. Research suggests that the average couple on Medicare Advantage can expect plan premiums to increase by approximately $500 annually.

More than half of all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries live on less than $30,000 a year and most live on fixed incomes. This is why it is so critical that we continue to pressure Congress to act on Senate Bill 172 and House Bill 1398. Suspending the HIT for 2020 is one of the most direct ways Congress can provide financial relief for seniors and disabled individuals who rely on Medicare Advantage plans. But they need to act quickly to prevent premiums from rising.

Make sure you’ve signed our #StopTheHITOnSeniors petition to urge members of Congress to co-sponsor S. 172 and H.R. 1398. Then, share the petition with your friends and family! The more support for these bills Congress hears from beneficiaries like you, the more likely they are to take action and delay the HIT!

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 of the Month: Story Bank

BMA is proud to be a leading source for information on beneficiary experience in Medicare Advantage plans. Through your stories, comments, and letters, you help us understand what works well across plans 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.

Share your Medicare Advantage story today to help us inform decisions that impact Medicare Advantage coverage for over 22 million beneficiaries nationwide!

Our Top Advocates

  • Carol F. (Herndon, VA.)
  • Donald J. (Marietta, GA.)
  • Ed M. (Alexandria, KY.)

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. Join us on Facebook and become part of BMA’s inner circle of advocates.

Better Medicare Alliance is a Twitter leader in discussions about Medicare Advantage and health care for our nation’s seniors. Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Medicare Advantage news.

Proposed Changes to Drug Rebates Could Harm Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Better Medicare Alliance advocates for the 22 million Americans who rely on Medicare Advantage for its affordability, simplicity, care coordination and enhanced supplemental benefits. Across the country rising costs of prescription drugs are a growing concern, as more and more individuals and families find it difficult to afford medications they need. Yet Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans (MA-PD) have been able to offer stable premiums to beneficiaries since the program’s inception.

Medicare Advantage-Part D plans work to deliver value for seniors and for taxpayers by negotiating lower prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. They do this by working with Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs), such as CVS Caremark or Express Scripts, who negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies through the use of rebates. Rebates are a vital tool used by health plans and PBMs to negotiate lower drug prices with drug manufacturers. Without this tool MA-PD enrollees could face increased premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs and reduced supplemental benefits.

Recently, the Administration proposed eliminating current rebates provided to PBM’s associated with Medicare Part D plans. The Senate Finance Committee hearing “Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part III” on April 9, 2019, provided lawmakers an opportunity to learn more about the role of PBM’s and better assess the impact of the Administration’s proposed changes to Part D prescription drug coverage.

Top executives from Cigna Corporation, CVS Caremark, Humana Inc., OptumRx, and Prime Therapeutics LLC answered questions about their efforts to curb the rising costs of prescription drugs, relationships with manufacturers, and the extent to which rebates impact list prices.

In summary remarks, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) clarified “PBM’s do not set drug prices. The Administration rule will not change that fact.”
Better Medicare Alliance is opposed to the Administration’s proposal because it could jeopardize affordable prescription drug coverage and raise costs in Medicare Advantage plans.
Here’s why:

  • Rebates are important negotiating tool to compel drug manufacturers to keep prescription drug coverage affordable for seniors.
  • Part D rebates have been used to stabilize and drive prescription drug costs down.
  • Eliminating rebates could destabilize Medicare Part D premiums and cause an increase in costs to enrollees.
  • The proposed rule risks creating instability for seniors on Medicare.
  • Studies show that rebates have reduced costs in Medicare Part D by nearly $35 billion in the last four years and had they been eliminated last year Part D premiums would have risen by 52 percent in 2018 alone.
  • Eliminating current rebates would negatively affect nearly 16 million people on Medicare Part D.
  • This proposal could reduce access to supplemental benefits in Medicare Advantage Part D plans, such as dental, vision, and hearing coverage.
  • According to experts, zero premium MA-PD plans could experience a 28% reduction in resources available to finance supplemental benefits. This could translate to an average annual $228 decrease in funding available per beneficiary for these plans to provide supplemental benefits. Individuals in rural areas would be the most negatively impacted by this proposal.
  • This proposal fails to address the root cause of high prescription drug costs. If we’re serious about addressing the real problem, we need to start with list prices that are set by drug manufacturers.

Better Medicare Alliance supports the goal to curb rising prescription drug costs, but the potential harm to seniors and individuals with disabilities this proposal could cause suggests there should be another way to achieve this goal. We urge the Administration to work with stakeholders like Better Medicare Alliance to identify solutions that minimize the negative consequences to beneficiaries in integrated MA-PD plans and address the root causes of high prescription drug prices for consumers.

Better Medicare Alliance Advocacy Update – March 2019

Note from Congresswoman Schwartz

Hello BMA Advocates!

With over 100 new members now serving as part of the 116th Congress and the issue of health care reform taking high priority, Members and their staff are looking for information and resources to inform their policy decisions. As experts on Medicare Advantage, BMA welcomes this opportunity to inform and galvanize support for the care seniors choose.

In April, we hosted a Hill briefing for Congressional Staff titled Medicare Advantage 101: A Primer. The event introduced fundamental concepts in Medicare Advantage, highlighted the differences between Medicare Advantage and Traditional Medicare, and explained the Medicare Advantage payment model. A panel of BMA Allies representing the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), Oak Street Health, and the Teacher’s Retirement System of Kentucky followed and , shared insights on care provided under Medicare Advantage, improved health outcomes, and information on how Medicare Advantage is working to address health disparities and address the full health needs of patients.

We are happy to note that this event was widely attended! Over 80 participants joined us to learn more about the high-quality, affordable care available with Medicare Advantage plans. These 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.

This month, we also took to the road to share information on Medicare Advantage! BMA was a proud sponsor of Aging in America 2019, hosted by the American Society on Aging. The conference, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, featured a diverse line-up of speakers and exhibitors dedicated to addressing the needs of seniors nationwide.

BMA was happy to participate in the session called “Panel of Pundits” and as an exhibitor, sharing your stories and information on Medicare Advantage with a variety of providers, community-based organizations and researchers.

We look forward to additional opportunities to share information on Medicare Advantage here in Washington and across the country. Thank you for informing our efforts and for your commitment to high-quality, affordable care with Medicare Advantage.

Sincerely,

Allyson Y. Schwartz
President & CEO
Better Medicare Alliance

The Administration is considering a proposed rule that would eliminate current drug rebates, a tool used by health plans to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs from drug manufacturers. BMA recognizes that the high cost of prescription drugs remains a serious concern for beneficiaries nationwide. However, we have serious concerns about the effect this rule would have in increasing premiums and reducing benefits for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, without addressing the root cause of high drug prices – list prices set by the manufacturer.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on prescription drug coverage on April 9, 2019, where a panel of five Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) executives answered questions on their role in the drug pricing system. In advance of the hearing, BMA’s community of advocates sent 2,953 letters to Committee members urging them to #ProtectMAPD.

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 of the Month: Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable Task Force

The Administration is considering a proposed rule that would eliminate current drug rebates, a tool used by health plans to negotiate lower prices on prescription drugs from drug manufacturers. BMA recognizes that the high cost of prescription drugs remains a serious concern for beneficiaries nationwide. However, we have serious concerns about the effect this rule would have in increasing premiums and reducing benefits for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, without addressing the root cause of high drug prices – list prices set by the manufacturer.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on prescription drug coverage on April 9, 2019, where a panel of five Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) executives answered questions on their role in the drug pricing system. In advance of the hearing, BMA’s community of advocates sent 2,953 letters to Committee members urging them to #ProtectMAPD.

In the coming months, we will have more information on these proposed changes and their impact on your Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug coverage. To stay informed, join the Keep Our Prescription Drugs Affordable task force today!

Our Top Advocates

  • Ally S. (Pleasant Grove, UT)
  • Myrta R. (Houston, TX)
  • Harry G. (Kingsport, TN)

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. Join us on Facebook and become part of BMA’s inner circle of advocates.

Better Medicare Alliance is a Twitter leader in discussions about Medicare Advantage and health care for our nation’s seniors. Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Medicare Advantage news.

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!