January 15, 2020 at 5:00 am ET
It’s not an exaggeration to say that health care determines the path to the White House. It’s an issue that’s been at the center of our last five elections dating back to at least 2010, and this year will be no exception.
The reason is simple: Americans demand — and deserve — affordable, high-quality health care. Candidates naturally promise all of that and more, but their ideas about how to get there are radically different.
But there’s one promising area where common ground still exists. Every year, leaders from across the political spectrum — including presidential candidates — come together to support the Medicare Advantage program.
Medicare Advantage is the private-sector coverage alternative to traditional Medicare, and it is health care that truly works. MA delivers better coverage, better services, better care and better value. The program is a great example of what we can accomplish when the public and private sectors work together: more choices, better quality and lower costs. Just look at the results.
Every day, more people are choosing MA over traditional Medicare. Enrollment has doubled over the last 10 years, growing from 10.5 million in 2009 to 22 million in 2019, and it is likely to increase again by close to double-digit percentages in 2020. That means more than one-third of Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in an MA plan.
That growth continues in part because patients get better results. Outcomes are better under MA versus traditional Medicare, including fewer hospital readmissions and improved individual health. MA plans topped traditional Medicare in 16 out of 16 clinical quality metrics, including hospital readmission rates and medication adherence.
Seniors also get more for less. This year, MA premiums will drop to their lowest level in 13 years, and millions of seniors will enjoy more benefits than they would otherwise receive. For instance, more and more MA plans offer supplemental benefits not available under traditional Medicare.
From dental, vision and hearing coverage to free rides to the grocery store, these benefits ensure that patients are able to maintain their health and independence and access care when they need it. MA plans have an out-of-pocket limit, unlike traditional Medicare, and in 2020, 93 percent of Medicare beneficiaries can choose an MA plan that covers prescription drugs with zero premium increase.
With a combination of affordability, quality, flexibility and choice, it’s no surprise that 90 percent of MA beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage, compared to a 76 percent satisfaction rate for traditional Medicare. And 95 percent of them would recommend it to their families and friends.
It’s hard to find a more positive and bipartisan health care issue in Washington. Earlier in 2019, 368 senators and representatives signed letters of support for MA and urged the Trump administration to protect the program from any cuts.
But as the politics of health care are amplified, programs such as MA could be at risk. We can’t let politics endanger what seniors have today, and presidential candidates would do well to focus on improving the programs we know are working and enjoy bipartisan support.
That means keeping the program stable and adequately funded for seniors, people with disabilities and taxpayers. It’s an example of how patients benefit when we work together — the public sector and free market, Republicans and Democrats, Congress and the president. Let’s continue to strengthen and support Medicare Advantage as a public-private partnership that works.
Matt Eyles is president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans.
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