"If the proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are enacted, they will threaten the quality of care and undermine the supplemental health and wellness benefits" some seniors rely on, writes Julie Mathews, manager of a senior housing community in Exmore, Virginia.
By Julie Mathews
As the manager of a senior living community in Exmore, I know that residents and staff were watching closely during President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Virginia Beach. We were especially hoping that the president would talk about protecting Medicare from cuts that could threaten the quality of life for older and disabled Americans.
Because an integral part of Medicare, the popular Medicare Advantage program, is on the chopping block, Biden’s words and actions on the matter will be under the microscope. If the proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are enacted, they will threaten the quality of care and undermine the supplemental health and wellness benefits that our residents rely on every day.
Medicare Advantage delivers quality-of-life benefits that save older Americans and those with disabilities valuable time and money. It provides additional benefits like vision, dental and hearing coverage that is not covered under traditional, fee-for-service Medicare. However, what makes Medicare Advantage a true game changer for our older and mobility-challenged residents is the broad scope of supplemental benefits that targets their unique needs.
Our residents who are Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can draw on a vast array of supplemental services that improve their quality of life and result in better health outcomes. These include offerings like meal delivery, in-home support, telemedicine, and, importantly, even transportation services to help get seniors and patients with disabilities to and from critical medical appointments.
As manager, I see one of the transportation companies in our parking lot every day. Our residents — all of whom are 62 or older, living with a disability, and sometimes both — require the transportation services covered by Medicare Advantage to get to everything from routine medical appointments to critical services like dialysis and chemotherapy. In many cases, these are truly life-saving appointments.
The transportation services accessed through Medicare Advantage are particularly important to our residents given that they all live on a fixed income and many face mobility challenges. One time, one of our residents forgot to file his paperwork correctly and ended up receiving a $500 bill from the transportation company just to drive him 10 minutes up the road for a medical appointment. But under Medicare Advantage, many plans cover the cost of transportation services to visit the doctor or outpatient clinic. No one should be faced with such astronomical costs for something as simple as transportation to a doctor’s appointment that could save their life.
However, if the CMS’s proposed, multi-billion dollar cuts to Medicare Advantage are enacted, access to medical transportation services and other supplemental benefits could be in jeopardy for our residents, as well as for more than 30 million Americans covered by this critical program. According to a recent study, these proposed cuts would impact nearly 400,000 Virginians, resulting in a net loss of nearly $600 for individual beneficiaries.
On top of the supplemental benefits like transportation, our residents who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage also save money on their health care expenses. In fact, another recent report found that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries save nearly $2,000 per year compared to patients enrolled in Fee-For-Service Medicare. These savings, however, could also diminish or disappear if the CMS moves forward with their harmful cuts.
There is still time for the president to follow through on his pledge to protect Medicare from cuts. It is critical to help protect access to these kinds of low-cost, high-quality, flexible health care benefits and supplemental services that improve the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. The best way he can do that is by working to protect Medicare Advantage from the devastating funding cuts the CMS has proposed.
Julie Mathews is the manager of a senior housing community in Exmore, Virginia.
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