I recently had the privilege of representing the Latino Coalition and the Better Medicare Alliance at a Medicare Advantage briefing sponsored by the Healthcare Leadership Council. The event was well-attended by over 50 congressional staff and key health care stakeholders. As a panelist, I was especially excited to discuss the importance of Medicare Advantage to diverse communities, including millions of Latino seniors and individuals with disabilities. In fact, this is exactly why the Latino Coalition joined the Better Medicare Alliance: to be part of the conversation around Medicare Advantage and to ensure the voice of Latino enrollees is heard.
Latino participation in Medicare Advantage is particularly noteworthy. According to the latest data, 44 percent of Latino beneficiaries have chosen to enroll in Medicare Advantage. The program’s focus on coordinated care and chronic disease management makes is especially important for Latino seniors who suffer disproportionately from chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.
In addition, Medicare Advantage’s coordinated care model focuses on prevention and wellness, which keeps patients out of the emergency room and hospital. Medicare Advantage has higher performance measures for cholesterol testing, diabetes care and breast cancer screening than traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare. The program simply delivers better health care to our community.
The Latino Coalition works with the Latino community across the country and at the local level. Because of this, we see firsthand Latino seniors from all over who are living on fixed incomes – 75 percent have incomes of $20,000 or less. Medicare Advantage helps keep health care affordable by capping out-of-pocket costs, a protection FFS Medicare does not offer.
As attendees at the briefing heard from other panelists – including a practicing primary care physician and representatives from a leading health plan and health system – the value of Medicare Advantage was clear. The program is better for patients, doctors, hospitals, and Medicare as a whole.
Evidence and experience continue to show that Medicare Advantage keeps its enrollees healthier, which is particularly important for Latinos with chronic diseases. As a fast-growing demographic, Latinos and all Americans need the best health care available.
After three years of cuts, we are very concerned that Washington is considering even more cuts to the program, which will only reduce seniors’ benefits and raise their costs. Congress and policymakers need to understand that enrollees from all communities, including the Latino community, are highly satisfied with Medicare Advantage and healthier as a result. The Healthcare Leadership Council briefing successfully delivered this message. We need to continue to educate and spread the word. That is exactly what we aim to do through the Better Medicare Alliance.