Washington, D.C. – Today, Better Medicare Alliance (BMA), the leading advocacy coalition for Medicare Advantage, announced the launch of an advocacy campaign in support of improvements in the education and outreach on the option of Medicare Advantage, the integrated, managed care option in Medicare. The “Active Choosers Campaign” includes a coalition of 11 key health organizations who will share expertise and support to improve consumer understanding and awareness of the option of Medicare Advantage commonly referred to as “Part C”.
According to an annual national survey of Medicare-eligible beneficiaries conducted by polling firm Morning Consult found that 66% of seniors on Traditional Medicare are unaware of the option of Medicare Advantage when they turn 65. The survey also found that majority of Medicare-eligible seniors (58%) say they do not understand the difference between Medicare Advantage and other Medicare options, including that Medicare Advantage has an out-of-pocket limit.
The survey conducted by Morning Consult, on behalf of BMA surveyed 2,001 seniors from September 18-September 22, 2018 with a margin of error of +/- 2%. Read report here.
In response to the ongoing concern, there has been increasing interest in improving Medicare information and decision-making tools. Last month, Congressmen Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA) authored a joint bipartisan letter to CMS expressing their support for enhanced Medicare information and decision-making tools, as well as encouragement for improvement of education efforts to raise awareness of Medicare Advantage among American seniors.
In addition, today Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an expansion of its Medicare.gov website and a new mobile app that it says will help Medicare beneficiaries choose plans by providing cost estimates for people with different levels of medical need. Improvements included changes to the Medicare Plan Finder that were advocated by BMA.
“CMS has been quite responsive to listen to patient advocacy groups and experts to improve understanding and awareness of Medicare choices. We commend them for the progress they have made in the past year. While it is important for CMS to remain an unbiased source of information, it is critical going forward to work together to play catch up when it comes to information and understanding of Medicare Advantage. There is need for a concerted effort to educate seniors on Medicare Advantage – perhaps now is the time to move forward with this effort. It starts with better coordination between the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as people approach age 65 and continues through annual open enrollment,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, BMA President and CEO.
The Active Choosers campaign is also a result of a convening meeting held in December 2017 that brought together about 50 thought leaders —including beneficiary advocates, health communication experts, researchers, health plans, practitioners, community partners, and policymakers —to discuss and develop recommendations for improving consumers’ understanding of Medicare coverage options, specifically, Medicare Advantage, the public-private managed care option under Medicare.
“The National Coalition on Health Care is pleased to partner with Better Medicare Alliance to improve beneficiary education, outreach, and engagement. Tools and materials should be well-tested to ensure they support beneficiaries in making good decisions in their best health and financial interests,” said Jon Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care
“Through the Active Choosers campaign, BMA and its partners are serving as a critical resource to help Medicare beneficiaries, as they enroll in the program, understand their choices in receiving and using their Medicare benefits, which can have a significant impact on their ability to maintain or improve their health,” said Michael A. Barry, Executive Director, Population Health Alliance
ACTIVE CHOOSERS COALITION MEMBERS
American Medical Group Association
National Association of Mental Illness
Healthcare Leadership Council
National Coalition on Health
National Hispanic Medical Association
National Black Nurses Assoc.
Population Health Alliance
Silver Sneakers by Tivity
National Medical Association
National Minority Quality Forum
BETTER MEDICARE ALLIANCE RECOMMENDATIONS
Outreach and education must be improved to clearly convey that beneficiaries have to make an active choice between FFS Medicare and Medicare Advantage to avoid being automatically enrolled into FFS Medicare, which may not be the most appropriate coverage option for their health care.
CMS and SSA should assess and update current materials to improve readability, offer visual illustrations of concepts to accommodate various health literacy levels, target outreach to provide more personalized support throughout the enrollment process and incorporate more innovative approaches to education and consumer assistance.
CMS, working with stakeholders, should examine current funding and resources to assess how to effectively improve consumer education and outreach.
The current administration, working with stakeholders, should conduct a robust education and outreach campaign on Medicare choices with specific attention to Medicare Advantage.
Congress should call for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to assess communications and outreach on Part C by CMS.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) should update its 2008 assessment of the National Medicare Education Program and issue additional recommendations consistent with current standards.