Letter: Medicare Advantage Works for African American Seniors. Now is the Time to Protect It.

March 31, 2023

Originally published in the Milwaukee Courier

Health care access continues to be an important issue across Wisconsin’s Black communities. As the cost of care continues to rise, it has become increasingly important that we have options that allow us to access quality and affordable health care. That is why I am a supporter of Medicare Advantage, a program that is currently being threatened with funding cuts.

Medicare Advantage is the choice of over 30 million seniors across the country, including over 600,000 seniors in Wisconsin. Nearly 50% of Medicare eligible seniors in Wisconsin choose Medicare Advantage because they know that Medicare Advantage offers all the coverage of original Medicare with added benefits that seniors enjoy.

Sadly, it may soon be more difficult for seniors to access these benefits. The Biden Administration has announced billions in cuts to Medicare Advantage. These cuts could lead to higher costs and less coverage for seniors who rely on the program for their care. These cuts will also overly affect minority enrollees, as nearly half of the minorities eligible for Medicare choose Medicare Advantage.

Plus, Medicare Advantage plans include measures that bring down health care costs for seniors. Plans cap out-of-pocket medical costs for enrollees and offer combined vision, hearing and dental coverage. These benefits are particularly important to Medicare Advantage enrollees, as 40% make less than $25,000 per year. This includes enrollees who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, or dual eligibles. Dual eligibles typically have incomes below the Federal Poverty line, which was $14,580 for a single person in 2023. Not to mention, a majority of dual eligibles, some of whom live in historically underinvested or underrepresented communities and are more negatively affected by social factors and drivers of health.

I was proud to see Wendell Harris, President of the Wisconsin NAACP, write a recent Op-Ed in the Milwaukee Courier to discuss the importance.