On March 13, 2014, Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director and Founder Judith Stein testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, at a hearing entitled "Keeping the Promise: Allowing Seniors to Keep Their Medicare Advantage Plans If They Like Them." That testimony is summarized below.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy recognizes that Medicare Advantage (MA) plans can be a viable option for some enrollees. As a beneficiary advocacy organization, however, we are rarely contacted by individuals who are happy with their plans. Instead, we regularly hear from individuals and their families who are having trouble accessing Medicare coverage and necessary health care through their MA plans. For example, over the last year, the Center has received complaints from across the country about one large MA plan that has been denying coverage for skilled nursing facility (SNF) care, including for individuals receiving their nutrition through a feeding tube. In addition, we regularly hear from beneficiaries who have access issues because of MA plans' limited networks.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) has strengthened both the Medicare program in general, and the Medicare Advantage program in particular. The ACA implemented a number of provisions improving the MA program for beneficiaries. Perhaps most significantly, the Affordable Care Act has put the Medicare program on a more sound fiscal footing by reining in overpayments to MA plans over a period of years.
To improve both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage for beneficiaries we have several recommendations including, but not limited to, providing better notice and consumer protections regarding MA plan benefits and network changes, and standardizing benefits within plans – as exists for Medicare Supplement Insurance policies. We also urge the leveling of the reimbursement and coverage field between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage. For example, offering a drug plan in the traditional Medicare program, to give beneficiaries a true choice.
Instead of focusing on how much Medicare Advantage payments are being "cut," Congress should focus on making sure MA plans provide what taxpayers are paying for. It’s unfair to ask beneficiaries and taxpayers to shoulder extra payments to private Medicare Advantage plans.