Letter: Lawmakers Must Protect Medicare Advantage and 27 million Americans

Originally published in the Jersey Journal and NJ.com

With Congress considering several proposals as they look to fund their reconciliation package, they should avoid potential cuts in healthcare plans for seniors.

In my line of work, you get very familiar with healthcare coverage. As the president and CEO of the Home Care and Hospice Association of New Jersey, I work every day to improve the education and training for home care specialists, which includes staying up to date on the best healthcare insurance options for seniors.

When it comes to reasons why our legislators should be protecting this important program, it’s hard to know even where to begin. One of the most important programs protecting seniors is the Medicare Advantage program. The benefits of Medicare Advantage have been critical to our seniors during COVID-19. Our seniors suffered far greater burden than many other groups. Seniors sheltered in their homes, sacrificing time with family and friends to protect their health and safety.

Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage had peace of mind from knowing they would be covered if they contracted the virus – and with more than just baseline medical coverage. Medicare Advantage went above and beyond, with such services as delivering groceries and prescriptions and setting up patients for telehealth appointments.

It’s really no surprise that 27 million seniors and those with disabilities have enrolled in Medicare Advantage across the country. Especially here in New Jersey, 28% of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Advantage and that number is continuing to grow. The program also offers over 300 different plans for seniors in New Jersey, allowing individuals to pick the plan that is right for them.

As someone working in home care, I can see the impact Medicare Advantage has on seniors – they are able to afford medications and treatments without worrying if they will have to sacrifice elements of their care. For some individuals, the entire cost of in-home caregiver support is covered by their plan.

Should Congress move to make cuts to this program, they will negatively impact the lives of millions of seniors and over 525,000 New Jerseyans. Medicare Advantage is a solution that works. The program provides seniors with the tools they need to live full, healthy lives, whether that be transportation to medical appointments, memberships in social clubs or benefits that meet specific health needs. Cuts to any single part of this program could have a host of consequences.

Our lawmakers have a chance to show seniors how much they are valued. I hope that Congress will refuse to defund this program and work instead to bolster it. Millions more seniors should feel the safety and certainty that comes with Medicare Advantage.

Nancy Fitterer is the president and CEO of the Cranford-based New Jersey Homecare and Hospice Association. She served as chief of staff to two New Jersey attorneys general.