Six members of the Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) recently had the chance to meet virtually with officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), including Dr. Meena Seshamani, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Administrator of CMS and Director of the Center for Medicare, and Cheri Rice, Deputy Director, Parts C and D, Center for Medicare. CMC members shared their experience with Medicare Advantage providing better services, better access to care, and better value.
Coalition member Vicki started the meeting by explaining that Medicare Advantage not only helped her recover from hip replacement surgery, but also assisted her with coordination of care services. “Having Medicare Advantage was such a gift. I didn’t have to search for a surgeon. I didn’t lay awake worrying about how much my surgery was going to cost me. I went in at 4 a.m. for surgery and I walked out at 1:30 p.m. with a new hip.” She said that Medicare Advantage gave her peace of mind because her out-of-pocket costs post-surgery were low and because every aspect of her surgery felt manageable. She noted that for seniors, having someone to shepherd them through the surgery process can be a Godsend.
CMC member Jeanette then shared, “having Medicare Advantage is like having my own private caregiver.” She has been on the program for 10 years and enjoys many different benefits. When she had surgery for cataracts, the transportation benefits included were immensely helpful. Using those benefits allowed her to remain independent and not rely on her family to take her to and from appointments. She stressed that seniors need programs like Medicare Advantage so that they can access quality yet affordable care, as millions of seniors are financially limited.
Robert, another Coalition member, started out by saying, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my Medicare Advantage.” He suffers from a variety of health conditions that require regular treatment and prescriptions, which he receives at little to no cost thanks to Medicare Advantage. Robert was connected with Medicare Advantage when he started suffering from severe arthritis. When he lost vision, Medicare Advantage covered double cataract surgery, and when he had a heart attack, Medicare Advantage covered the cost of inputting a stent as well as a later stent replacement. Robert added that his plan coordinator regularly calls to check in on him and remind him of benefits he can access.
CMC advocate David, who is a physician, signed up for Medicare Advantage after seeing firsthand how much his patients enjoyed their coverage. After practicing medicine for more than 40 years, he has seen many innovations in health care. He finds that the integrated vision, dental, and hearing benefits are a huge plus for providers and patients, allowing people to take care of their health and coordinate greater care. David added that mental health is often forgotten for older age groups, but Medicare Advantage places an extra emphasis on this, which is unique.
Coalition member Corrin had hip replacement surgery, and with Medicare Advantage, her out-of-pocket costs were minimal. She was able to quickly recover thanks to her coverage, which includes gym benefits and rehabilitation services. She echoed that she uses many of the benefits mentioned by the other participants. Since enrolling, she has been able to place much more emphasis on her health through preventive care. Lastly, she reiterated the importance of affordability for seniors living on fixed incomes who may not have extra money for discretionary spending.
Betty, another CMC advocate, closed the meeting saying, “My Medicare Advantage plan treats me like I’m their mother.” During the COVID-19 crisis, her Medicare Advantage frequently checked in on her and helped her make appointments. She was grateful for telehealth services that allowed her to stay home while continuing to receive care. She enjoys that Medicare Advantage doesn’t just address her medical needs, but it also provides access to healthy food, transportation, gym benefits, and other things seniors need to live a healthy life. Medicare Advantage allows seniors to live and grow older at home, which is what seniors want.
CMS officials thanked Coalition members for taking the time to share their Medicare Advantage stories and asked about the preventative benefits available through Medicare Advantage that members use often. Coalition members shared that they utilize preventive services frequently, highlighting fitness classes, telehealth, wellness check-ups, vaccination reminders, and grocery delivery as just a few of these benefits.
The CMC is grateful to Dr. Meena Seshamani, Cheri Rice, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for meeting with our Coalition members.
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