A key responsibility of Congress is making sure the actions of our federal agencies reflect the priorities of the American people. This includes ensuring that the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid (“ CMS”) – the agency responsible for administering Medicare and Medicaid programs – does right by senior citizens on Medicare Advantage.
What is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage promotes choice in health care. It isn’t some one-size-fits-all plan decided by the government; rather, it offers an extensive menu of comprehensive health plans from which seniors are free to select one that best meets their needs. Better yet, these are private health plans. Medicare Advantage leverages marketplace competition to drive innovation and deliver better service at lower costs. You may be interested to know that nearly half a million Arizona seniors rely on Medicare Advantage for their health care – including more than 55,000 of our friends and neighbors right here in Arizona’s 4th congressional district.
With CMS soon expected to consider future funding for Medicare Advantage, I want to make especially clear how vital this program is to Arizona families, and how well it aligns with the conservative values I was elected to defend. Under Medicare Advantage there are thousands of health plans nationwide charging zero-dollar premiums. It means co-pays are affordable – usually just a few dollars. And it means every plan caps out-of-pocket expenses, so seniors should not have to pay an exorbitant amount for healthcare – no matter what medical issues they face.
For Arizona seniors living on a fixed income, Medicare Advantage is critical to their financial stability. Many local seniors have told me how grateful they are not to have to choose between medical treatment and other basic needs, like food and housing.
Just as Medicare Advantage helps keep cost down for seniors, it does the same for government. As Congress optimized the program, incentives have been built in to reward health plans that keep their members well and out of the hospital.
Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors a wealth of free preventative care, including check-ups and health screenings for diseases like cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. There also is chronic disease management assistance, so those with a pre-existing condition get help to slow or halt progression and prevent complications, which can lead to expensive care.
Many seniors appreciate the nurse helplines, which enable enrollees to get expert medical advice around the clock, and without having to leave the house. These are valuable services – especially for our seniors in rural Arizona for whom a trip to the doctor can be a challenge. With Medicare Advantage, these folks are more likely to receive prompt, effective and necessary care they otherwise may have forgone.
Enrollees also benefit from the free fitness memberships that come with many Medicare Advantage plans, with programs designed to keep seniors strong and healthy. These classes are a great opportunity to get together with friends and stay active.
Studies show Medicare Advantage works. It cuts down on hospital admissions and re-admissions, while promoting more efficient use of services. That’s good for the federal budget and the taxpayer.
These are among the reasons I recently signed a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to preserve Medicare Advantage. I will continue to do my part to ensure Arizona seniors have quality and affordable choices in their health care.
Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S., represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District. He was elected in 2010 and is serving his fourth term.