Originally published in CommonWealth Magazine
Here in Massachusetts, we have a large community of seniors. As the president of the Mass Retirees Association, I believe in speaking up when I see ways to improve the lives of those in our community. In fact, I spent most of my 38 years in public service working under the Golden Dome in our state’s capitol, fighting for the wellbeing of the people of the Commonwealth.
Thousands of retired public and private sector retirees depend on access to quality affordable health insurance plans. Medicare Advantage is one such option. With nearly 350,000 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in our state including public retirees, this program has made an immense difference in the health outcomes of our seniors.
The fact of the matter is that one size does not fit all when it comes to most areas of public policy, and this is especially true with health care.
The reason 94 percent of seniors are satisfied with their Medicare Advantage plan is because Medicare Advantage is one the few programs that recognizes this principle. The program delivers affordable coverage, reduces Medicare’s cost sharing, and offers sweeping coverage on benefits not offered by original Medicare like dental, hearing, and vision.
My experience working with my fellow retirees, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, has only reinforced my belief that public officials should be doing everything in their power to protect programs like Medicare Advantage. What retirees are calling for now is more personalized care options, not less. And to be frank, what has been missing in the discussions surrounding potential changes to Medicare Advantage is more honest conversations with Medicare Advantage recipients about what they will be sacrificing should there be changes.
In my line of work, I have become particularly familiar with the needs of seniors who live on limited fixed incomes. Should Congress decide to make cuts to Medicare Advantage, the number of plans retirees have access to could become limited – threatening seniors’ access to certain prescriptions and potentially increasing their copays.
Making changes to our health care system to fund other initiatives would be a mistake. Instead, we should focus on how we can support successful programs like Medicare Advantage to keep serving our communities.
Protecting Medicare means protecting seniors. Older Americans have paid into the system for years now and, as we age, we deserve to know that the rug will not be pulled out from under us. Twenty-seven million Americans over the age of 65 and those with disabilities have access to high quality, well-rounded care thanks to Medicare Advantage. Let’s keep it that way.
I hope Massachusetts public officials, including Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Katherine Clark, continue to stand up for our community’s most vulnerable by preserving funding for Medicare Advantage.
Frank Valeri is the president of the Retired State, County and Municipal Employees Association of Massachusetts and former staff member of the Massachusetts State House and Senate.