Letter: Medicare Advantage is quality health care policy

March 31, 2022

Originally published in the Tallahassee Democrat

As an advocate of 30-plus years for the interests of Florida’s seniors, when the opportunity to be the executive director of our Silver Haired Legislature opened, I jumped at the chance.

It’s both gratifying and humbling for me to work in this position, as I have become very familiar with how legislation in Tallahassee and Washington, DC can uplift the needs and wants of our seniors. But I have also seen where help is so desperately needed, especially to tend to the seniors who feel like their voices are not being heard or when there is a failure to address their basic health needs.

What I want to focus on here is something that effectively linked both parts of my work, as a need was identified in the senior community and a program stepped up to serve our seniors with the help they deserve. And that came through Medicare Advantage.

Many of us seniors are all too familiar with the ways aches and pains increase as we get older, visit the doctor more frequently, find ourselves taking more medications, and worry more and more when we hear a mysterious crack.

Accordingly, while our health is becoming a greater concern, many of us are also transitioning to a fixed or limited income in retirement, and so we aren’t exactly poised to be spending our savings or unavailable income on health care.

This conundrum is familiar for the over 50 million seniors across the country, including almost 4.5 million here in Florida. The Medicare Advantage health care programs recognized these concerns and jumped into action.

This program is a prime example of how legislation can bring about the necessary solution to our communities. When seniors needed affordable and high-quality health care coverage, Medicare Advantage delivered.

Medicare Advantage touches on the parts of health that can be easy to forget about. As we get older, it is more important than ever that we invest in preventative care, which quickly falls to the wayside for seniors for many unseen reasons. With Medicare Advantage, necessary reminders to attend screenings, receive vaccines, and enroll in wellness or gym classes are helping to create a healthier culture for retired individuals.

So important today and beyond preventative care, something that I have been especially grateful for in the wake of the pandemic is the attention to mental health services. As so many of us spent time sheltered inside or fearing for our health and safety because of COVID-19, Medicare Advantage stepped in to provide telehealth benefits and ways to build a community from the comfort of home.

Even as things feel more normal, paying attention to senior mental health is still an essential pillar of Medicare Advantage care.

As I’ve testified for years, the hard part of my work in the Legislature is when we don’t see policies that appropriately meet needs. But when it comes to Medicare Advantage, the program is making my life easier as I don’t have to suggest new health care solutions. They’ve found solutions that work, and Floridians are benefitting from them.

Here in Florida, we are thankful to Sen. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott for signing onto the Medicare Advantage letter and showing their support for seniors. We are pleased to see that this program has the encouragement it deserves, from the local governments to the halls of Congress.

Ernie Bach is the executive director and CEO of the Florida Silver Haired Legislature.