Medicare Advantage a boon for Florida seniors

Andara Puchino

Although healthcare coverage is a hot-button topic in legislative discussions, it can be hard for the average voter to tell which programs help our community, and how much practical impact they have.

But when it comes to Medicare Advantage, the answer is simple: It’s critical. Because of the affordable health coverage it provides, the plan helps level the playing field and increase equitable access to care, especially for older adults and those with disabilities.

In Florida, more than half of all Medicare beneficiaries have a Medicare Advantage plan, as opposed to traditional Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare. That adds up to about 2.5 million people. Many more rely on the plan nationwide; by the end of the year, more than 29.5 million Americans are expected to be covered.

However, they may not be able to keep that coverage. Right now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are in the process of setting rates for the program amid proposed funding cuts. If reimbursement rates are slashed, tens of millions of Americans may lose some or all access to essential care.

That’s because patients with Medicare Advantage are on average older, more ethnically diverse and from lower-income households than traditional Fee-for-Service (FFS) Medicare enrollees. The program also serves a significantly higher share of adults aged 75 or older who are enrolled due to a disability.

The plan itself is designed to support patients who face barriers to care. In addition to tailored coverage and better prescription drug coverage, it also offers telehealth access, meal delivery, in-home support and transportation to medical appointments. Patients can also take advantage of a range of preventive and wellness benefits not covered by FFS Medicare.

Medicare Advantage’s popularity is also a testament to its success: A recent survey by the Better Medicare Alliance found that 94% of seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage were satisfied with their coverage — and nearly as many (92%) said that a political candidate’s support for the program was important when they cast their vote.

For patients and communities that have long been underserved by our healthcare system, access to these services is a much-needed step toward equity, and one that can improve wellness throughout life. That’s why we need to expand this program — not impose funding cuts that will harshly curtail access to medical services.

At a recent roundtable discussion at the 28th Area Agencies on Aging conference, I joined legislators, health-care professionals, local business leaders and nonprofit representatives in the Better Medicare Alliance, where we outlined our hopes for the future of Medicare Advantage in our community. I also spoke with lawmakers like Rep. Darren Soto, whose strong support of Medicare Advantage is vital when representing our community’s needs in Washington.

As our nation ages, the need for cost-effective, community-based services will continue to grow. By working with lawmakers like Rep. Soto, we can advocate for fair access to health and wellness services through Medicare Advantage, create a system that works
— and keep it strong for generations to come.

Karla Radka is the president and CEO of the Senior Resource Alliance.

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