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2 Million Voices & Growing to Protect Medicare Advantage

Majority of Senate Signs Bipartisan Letter Urging CMS to Protect Seniors Enrolled in Medicare Advantage

FEBRUARY 19, 2015

“We urge you to minimize disruptions for beneficiaries enrolled in the MA program by maintaining payment levels and providing a stable policy environment for 2016.”

Washington, D.C. – A bipartisan group of more than 50 senators sent a letter today urging the Medicare agency to protect more than 16 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage by maintaining current payment levels in 2016. The effort, spearheaded by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), comes as CMS prepares to release 2016 Medicare Advantage payment policies tomorrow. Seniors across the country rely on Medicare Advantage for the higher quality care and additional benefits these plans provide. Now, more than half of the Senate is weighing in to protect millions of beneficiaries from any further cuts. The Senate letter states that, “Regulatory policy changes that affect the program’s funding, year after year, are creating disruption and confusion among beneficiaries who are looking for consistency and predictability and can damage a program that offers value for beneficiaries… We urge you to provide needed stability to the MA program that will protect MA enrollees from disruptive changes in 2016.” You can view the letter and a full list of signees here. Highlights are included below:

  • “We are writing in advance of the CY2016 45-Day Notice for Medicare Advantage (MA) in order to renew our commitment to preserving the high quality health plan choices and benefits that our constituents receive through the MA program.”
  • “We urge you to minimize disruptions for beneficiaries enrolled in the MA program by maintaining payment levels and providing a stable policy environment for 2016.”
  • “More than 16 million seniors and individuals with disabilities – accounting for approximately 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries – are currently enrolled in MA plans, which typically offer a range of innovative services and coordinated benefits. We support the MA plans offered today for many reasons, including their emphasis on preventive care beginning with in-home health assessments, the systems of coordinated care they have developed to provide for the seamless delivery of health care services, and disease management services they provide for those with chronic conditions.”
  • “Regulatory policy changes that affect the program’s funding, year after year, are creating disruption and confusion among beneficiaries who are looking for consistency and predictability and can damage a program that offers value for beneficiaries.”
  • “This is particularly true for low-income beneficiaries who are financially vulnerable, as well as rural and minority populations who are seeing fewer plan choices. Furthermore, such disruptions threaten to impede health plans from driving the innovation that has resulted in better coordinated care and improved outcomes for beneficiaries who enroll in Medicare Advantage.”
  • “We ask that you carefully consider how beneficiaries would be impacted by further cuts to the MA program. At a time of broad agreement on the need to shift U.S. health care to focus on care coordination, quality, and value-based payments, it would be counterproductive to jeopardize a program that is already driven by and aligned toward those goals.”
  • “We urge you to provide needed stability to the MA program that will protect MA enrollees from disruptive changes in 2016.”

Each year, CMS sets payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans based on a number of factors. Preliminary 2016 rates are expected to be announced on February 20, 2015, with final rates expected April 6, 2015. Since 2010, Medicare Advantage has been cut in a number of ways. Evidence shows further cuts would hurt seniors even more through reduced benefits, fewer choices, and increased costs.

These senators add to a growing number of voices urging CMS to protect seniors in Medicare Advantage, including a broad array of providers, stakeholders, and seniors across the country mobilizing to protect their benefits.

AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) recently launched a new grassroots and ad campaign to protect Medicare Advantage seniors. The CMC’s 1.8 million seniors are writing letters and emails, making phone calls, attending events and engaging on social media to urge policymakers to protect Medicare Advantage as they consider policies that could impact their coverage. The new ads feature the personal stories of CMC members discussing how Medicare Advantage has allowed them to keep what matters most.

Founded in 1999, the Coalition for Medicare Choices is a national grassroots organization of more than 1.8 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Visit www.MedicareChoices.org to learn more and follow the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.