This week, the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. MA allows people with Medicare to choose a private insurance option instead of traditional Medicare. Witnesses included representatives from two MA plans—Andrew Toy of Clover Health and Daphne Klauser of Independence Blue Cross—who spoke to their experience administering MA plans, as well as Dr. Karoline Mortensen, Associate Professor of the Department of Health Sector Management and Policy at the University of Miami Business School, who discussed quality measures in MA plans. Dr. Jack Hoadley, Research Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and former Commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) also testified, speaking for himself and not on behalf of Georgetown or MedPAC.
Throughout the hearing, various witnesses and members of Congress emphasized the importance of robust beneficiary education tools and resources. Dr. Hoadley, in particular, testified about the need to modernize and improve the Medicare Plan Finder tool, citing recommendations in the recently released “Modernizing Medicare Plan Finder” report from Clear Choices and the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
As Medicare Rights has discussed in recent weeks, the changes coming to MA next year that increase plan flexibility will make the adequacy and accessibility of resources like Plan Finder more important than ever. We recognize that these changes could allow some people with MA to have better access to needed services, but we are concerned they could also increase consumer confusion across the Medicare program, and that their restriction to MA could disadvantage people with traditional Medicare.
The witnesses addressed these potential outcomes, with Mr. Toy and Ms. Klausner voicing strong support for the new flexibilities. Dr. Hoadley expressed concern that these changes may make beneficiary decision-making more complex, and recommended balancing innovation with standardization so that people with Medicare can evaluate their options and make optimal choices. Dr. Mortensen urged that these new flexibilities must be reflected in quality measures, and he expressed the need to ensure that people in traditional Medicare not be left out of any comprehensive improvements.
Medicare Rights appreciates the importance of empowering people with Medicare to make informed and timely choices about their coverage, through MA or traditional Medicare. Accordingly, we welcome the attention and bipartisan support the hearing brought to opportunities to improve existing counseling, assistance, and communication pathways.
We look forward to working with Congress and Administration to build on these areas of shared importance and promote informed choices, strengthen beneficiary decision-making, and expand benefits and care innovations across the Medicare program.