COVID-19 has been an immense challenge for families and businesses across New Hampshire. It brought tragedy and hardship, and every member of our community wants to put this pandemic behind us as soon as possible.
As vaccination rates steadily increase, we have a unique opportunity to look back on the past year and decide what we will carry forward. We will certainly cherish the memories of those lost and continue to support individuals dealing with lasting effects from COVID-19. Additionally, I hope we will retain the sense of solidarity that helped us through the darkest days.
I took great pride witnessing New Hampshire rally around our senior citizens and individuals with serious underlying conditions. Young, healthy people pitched in to deliver groceries and supplies to high-risk neighbors. Businesses scheduled special hours for older shoppers to help keep them safe. Community groups, faith-based organizations and individuals reached out to people sheltering at home to help relieve the isolation and bring some extra joy to the everyday.
This is the New Hampshire I know and love. And it’s the New Hampshire I want to see reflected in the actions of U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Representatives Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas. These leaders have an important role to play in aligning post-coronavirus policies with our values.
Among their top priorities must be protecting and enhancing Medicare Advantage, the health care selected by nearly 70,000 older and disabled New Hampshirites and over 26 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide.
Medicare Advantage came through for members during COVID-19. Plans waived co-pays for testing, treatment and vaccination, so enrollees never had to worry about their pocketbooks if they required coronavirus-related care. Plans also eliminated costs for primary care so members faced no financial disincentive to consulting with their doctors at this critical time. Finally, free and expanded telehealth protected against potential viral exposure by making appointments possible from home.
The need for high-quality health care doesn’t end with the pandemic, however. Medicare Advantage is still vital in keeping local seniors well. For example, about 85% of older people suffer from at least one chronic health condition. This means the vast majority of Medicare Advantage members require regular, timely treatment to help control diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis and other issues. In many cases, the right treatment can prevent these illnesses from worsening and avoid complications.
Medicare Advantage excels in this regard because members enjoy comprehensive benefits through one plan and with just one health care card. They gain coverage for doctors’ appointments, prescriptions, hospital care, and even integrated vision, dental and hearing coverage if they choose. When members have questions or need help finding a provider or scheduling care, coordinators are available to assist.
Importantly, the costs of Medicare Advantage are extremely low. In fact, 96% of Medicare beneficiaries have access to plans charging no monthly premium, and co-pays are affordable, free for wellness care and chronic disease management programs. Medicare Advantage’s success in driving down out-of-pocket costs is especially important to the 4% of enrollees living on less than $25,000 per year. This dramatically increases their access to care and their health outcomes.
There’s a lot to like about Medicare Advantage and members overwhelmingly do. More than nine in 10 enrollees are satisfied with their plan, the preventative services, and the prescription drug coverage, and 95% would recommend Medicare Advantage to friends and family.
Seniors and disabled Americans deserve this quality of coverage. Just as it fell to the community to support our neighbors through the tough times of COVID-19, all of our voices are required to urge policymakers to continually strengthen Medicare Advantage as we look forward to happier days.
(Katherine Rogers of Concord represents Merrimack District 28 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)
Originally published in the Concord Monitor
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