Originally published in The Star Ledger
Congress is currently considering a number of ways to improve the lives of the American people. Given how many parts of our country are still reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including many communities throughout New Jersey, it is imperative our government focus on how they can accomplish this without negatively impacting the healthcare of millions.
As the voice for over 165,000 nurses in New Jersey, the New Jersey State Nurses Association constantly works to advance quality health care for all residents of the Garden State, particularly communities that are disadvantaged and typically have even greater health needs.
Especially following the pandemic, we have been particularly focused on the protection and expansion of health care plans and programs that provide dependable, affordable care to seniors, a group that was disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
And yet, while we have been advocating for programs like Medicare Advantage, it seems that Congress is now considering making cuts to this vital program.
Medicare Advantage is currently serving over 500,000 seniors in New Jersey and 27 million seniors and those with disabilities across the country. The program is essential in ensuring communities with greater health needs are having their concerns met.
Because seniors often live on fixed or limited incomes, Medicare Advantage has played a crucial role in connecting seniors with quality health care without asking them to overextend financially. Medicare Advantage premiums have consistently decreased, and in 2022 the average senior is expected to pay just $19 per month for their premium.
Not only is Medicare Advantage affordable, but it is adaptable as well. There are over 50 plans offered to seniors in New Jersey alone, allowing them to choose the plan that provides the most essential benefits for their personal needs.
Some of the most popular benefits include comprehensive prescription drug coverage, telehealth services, prescription drug and grocery deliveries, wellness classes and gym memberships, and integrated hearing, dental, and vision benefits. No matter the concerns of a Medicare Advantage beneficiary, there is a plan available that can meet their needs.
If we want to seriously improve the lives of seniors in this country, we need to continue supporting the programs that are clearly working.
Our nurses have firsthand experience working with patients across New Jersey, and it is clear that seniors on Medicare Advantage are living healthier and happier lives. Medicare Advantage is not only offering seniors reactive care, but proactive as well, ensuring better health outcomes as seniors age.
So, despite the continued success and growth of Medicare Advantage, Congress is still considering making cuts to the program – which would impact the health care coverage of millions of Americans.
These cuts could endanger the health and wellbeing of highly vulnerable senior populations. For many, particularly seniors who are low income, Medicare Advantage is the only way they are able to afford quality care. Should cuts be made that result in increased premiums, seniors who depend on Medicare Advantage may no longer be able to afford their coverage.
We hope that Congress, especially our New Jerseys representatives, will continue to listen to the advice of health care professionals who are consistently advocating for Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage works for seniors, and it is in the interests of lawmakers and constituents alike to continue supporting this program.
Judith Schmidt is CEO of The New Jersey State Nurses Association (NJSNA), which represents the state’s 140,000 Registered Nurses and Advanced Practice Nurses.