GUEST COLUMN:

Medicare Advantage works for seniors, should be protected

Many things have changed over the past year and a half as a result of the pandemic, but nothing more so than our health care needs. And as the pandemic continues to rage on, people across Nevada and the country, particularly our seniors, are re-evaluating health care coverage and choices — from preventive care and costs to providers and conveniences, such as telehealth and medication deliveries. What is certain, however, is that seniors prefer quality, accessible health coverage.

Medicare Advantage plans serve as an alternative to original Medicare. These plans offer additional benefits, and they are very popular among beneficiaries. In fact, among the 27 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Advantage, the large majority are pleased with the program, with 94% saying they are satisfied with their plan.

As a Medicare Advantage enrollee myself, I can understand why. Medicare Advantage provides seniors with comprehensive health care coverage, going above and beyond to anticipate and cover the challenges that come with getting older. Importantly, Medicare Advantage provides us with affordable and predictable care. It allows us to visit our preferred, trusted medical providers and offers expanded, specific benefits such as vision, dental and hearing, which are crucial as we age.

Knowing that most seniors and Medicare Advantage enrollees are also on fixed incomes, we are also offered prescription medication coverage, keeping medication costs low, and capped out-of-pocket costs. And most notably, it keeps premiums low. In fact, premiums are set to decrease for 2022.

It is particularly important to me that Medicare Advantage works to keep costs so low, especially while maintaining high-quality levels of care. Thirty-two percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees are racial or ethnic minorities. And as we have seen magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, these populations have disproportionately less access to good, reliable health care. Medicare Advantage is working to bridge these troubling gaps and ensure patients can overcome any barriers to good health care.

It does not stop there, either. In addition to providing good medical care, Medicare Advantage also invests heavily in preventive services. Exercise classes and wellness programs are offered to help keep seniors active and moving. Routine screenings, vaccines and testing also keep us healthy and out of the hospital. And transportation services, medication delivery and telehealth appointments ensure we are getting the care we need.

Getting older is not easy for anyone. It comes with a lot of doctor’s appointments and health care needs in normal times. Medicare Advantage has always delivered, truly working for its enrollees — which was never more important than during the pandemic.

As Congress debates budget cuts, I hope lawmakers choose to protect this program. Nearly 220,000 Nevada seniors depend on Medicare Advantage. Legislators in Congress, such as Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, should continue protecting this important program and giving seniors the ability to live healthier, longer lives.

Ana Wood is a Medicare Advantage enrollee, and is a board member and government affairs chair for the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.