Letter: Biden is wrong to trim Medicare Advantage funding

March 22, 2023

Originally published in the Arizona Daily Star

As nurses, we look out for our patients and do our best to ensure their health and wellness. It’s what we do.

That is why the Arizona Nurses Association, our state’s oldest and largest nursing organization, feels compelled to speak out against a Biden administration proposal to cut billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage in the coming year. We fear the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) 2024 Advance Rate Notice plan will harm our patients and put their health at risk by increasing healthcare costs and reducing options and important benefits.

In fact, the proposed cuts could hit our most vulnerable populations the hardest. A recent analysis of the 2024 Advance Rate Notice proposal shows that treatments and care for serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, could see reduced payments, leaving many patients without the care they need.

From our time serving patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage, nurses like us have seen firsthand that Medicare Advantage is a lifeline for over 30 million Americans — including 676,000 seniors and individuals with disabilities here in Arizona. These enrollees choose Medicare Advantage for its comprehensive and coordinated care, which is key as people age and may need multiple doctors, medications and treatments. Medicare Advantage enrollees have access to traditional Medicare benefits as well as prescription medication, vision, hearing, dental and wellness program coverage—all with little to no premiums.

Having access to this range of benefits undoubtedly helps to improve health outcomes. And for the nursing community, that is no surprise. As nurses, we know that staying up to date on care and keeping active is critical to avoiding illness, chronic disease, and injury. Medicare Advantage benefits encourage health and wellness, keeping enrollees out of the hospital and helping them to achieve faster and more comfortable recoveries.

Currently, nearly 1 in 2 Medicare-eligible Arizonans choose Medicare Advantage, including many low-income households and individuals of color. A new survey also found that seniors with Medicare Advantage are almost unanimously satisfied with their coverage, and 95% of seniors think it is very important for the federal government to fund the program, especially as healthcare costs continue to rise.

We believe cutting funding from Medicare Advantage will only harm a popular program that empowers providers to deliver better care to our patients while improving healthcare outcomes among clinically complex patient populations. The Arizona Nurses Association urges President Biden and CMS to reverse their planned cuts so that 30 million American seniors and people with disabilities — including more than 676,000 Arizonans — can continue receiving the health care they rely on.