Letter: Federal support for Medicare should include Medicare Advantage

March 27, 2023

Originally published in WV News and The Register-Herald

Like many Americans, I was pleased when I heard President Biden in his State of the Union address call for supporting Medicare. The health of the Medicare program is vital to the health of many senior citizens. So, I hope the president’s support is as strong as he made it sound.

In West Virginia, which has one of the oldest populations in the nation, over 43% of Medicare eligible individuals — more than 190,000 West Virginians — are enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs. That’s because Medicare Advantage offers them a more all-encompassing range of benefits, such as dental, hearing and vision care, than are available through original Medicare. In addition, Medicare Advantage plans cap out-of-pocket costs and cover prescription medications at affordable prices.

Therefore, when President Biden spoke so forcefully before a joint session of Congress about the need to support Medicare, I assumed that also meant support for Medicare Advantage, which is proven to deliver value for seniors. However, an advance rate notice released by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calls for reduced funding for Medicare Advantage. These cuts don’t make sense and could hurt seniors.

If the Biden administration fails to see the importance of protecting seniors’ health care benefits, the final notice put out by CMS could result in billions of dollars of cuts to Medicare Advantage.

Any reduced support for Medicare Advantage plans could also result in fewer benefits or higher premiums for more than 30 million Americans, including West Virginians who depend on Medicare Advantage.

Cuts in federal support for Medicare Advantage would hit especially hard in West Virginia. It doesn’t need to be that way. Federal support for Medicare should include support for Medicare Advantage plans.

In fact, a poll by the Coalition for Medicare Choices shows that 95% of seniors agree that it is crucial the federal government fully fund Medicare Advantage. The time is quickly approaching for the Biden Administration to decide to keep true to the president’s promise and to America’s seniors by pulling back on these proposed changes.

Both of West Virginia’s U.S. senators – Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito – have joined a strong bipartisan majority of their Senate colleagues in signing a letter to urge the Biden administration to support Medicare Advantage in 2024.

We need them to keep the pressure on to convince the White House that support for Medicare Advantage is good for the health of America’s seniors and good for the health of the nation.