The Great American Senior Show

Kristine Grow with Coalition for Medicare Choices Updates America's Seniors

January 24, 2023 Sam Yates Season 2 Episode 94
The Great American Senior Show
Kristine Grow with Coalition for Medicare Choices Updates America's Seniors
Show Notes Transcript

With a change in politics in the nation's capital, seniors nationwide are holding their breath over whether Medicare and Social Security benefits will be on the chopping block.

The Great American Senior Show's grey-haired host Sam Yates poses that question and more to Kristine Grow, Coalition for Medicare Choices

Ms Grow also shares how seniors nationwide may get involved to help keep health care costs low through Medicare Advantage.  We also learn just how popular Medicare Advantage is with America's seniors. 

Sam Yates:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another exciting edition of The Great American Senior Show. I'm Sam Yates, you're a gray haired host. And today we are very lucky, because we have a previous guest, who is coming back today to update us on a whole bunch of things. Kristine Grow! And, Kristine, you are the spokesperson for the Coalition for Medicare Choices and can talk about many, many other things. So I just want to say welcome back.

Kristine Grow:

Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Sam Yates:

You know, the last time you were here, you did go into all of those other things that comprise your background, and at the risk of making it a repeat performance. So highlights so that our audience that may be new or maybe don't recall everything, though a little bit about you.

Kristine Grow:

Sure, I'm happy to. So thank you very much. So my name is Christine Grow, I am a communicator by trade, which means I get to tell lots of stories about important things that matter to people, particularly when it comes to their health and well being. I am originally from Philadelphia right now I live in Virginia. So I have the pleasure of having lots of different people as my neighbors and get to see a lot of what families are working for especially hard working American families and all kinds of different walks of life. And today, I'm here representing the Coalition for Medicare Choices, which is more than 2 million seniors from around the country who come together every year to let our members of Congress know how important Medicare Advantage is for their health and financial security.

Sam Yates:

Well, I think that's extremely critical right now. And you know, as I look around at some of the statistics, I think Florida, especially when it comes to Medicare Advantage, Florida is one of the highest percentage rates in the nation up around 51 percent. And point something, something something probably second or third only to Michigan and a few of the Mid West Upper Midwest states. So the folks here understand the importance of having good health care coverage.

Kristine Grow:

Absolutely. And especially in the state of Florida, Floridians are very attuned to health and financial security, they have a lot that they want to do they want to, they have a lot that they want to be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle for. And we do see that in Florida in particular, we have more than 2.4 million residents who rely on Medicare Advantage today for their health care coverage. And that's about 51% of those who are eligible for Medicare. So a lot of a strong showing for the folks of Florida for the Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs.

Sam Yates:

That is awesome. And we encourage them to ask questions and get answers and do what is best for their particular healthcare situation. And we'll get into that in a little bit. But we really are sort of on pins and needles right now because we have a change. And we talked about this a little bit in your last visit. We have now and official change in Congress and a few other political things that are coming into play. Any thoughts of what is going to happen with our Medicare programs and all the different types of coverage? Everyone is afraid that wow, things are gonna get cut?

Kristine Grow:

Yeah, I think that's a very valid concern that a lot of folks have. You know, as we look at Congress today, we certainly have a division. We have a Republican led House, we have a Democrat led Senate. And I think you know, what's important, especially as there are conversations happening now about budgets and debt limits is what do we do about Americans health care coverage, and especially for the Coalition for Medicare Choices? We're in a very critical time right now, because this is the time of year when the federal government makes a lot of decisions about what are they going to invest in the Medicare Advantage Program? What kinds of flexibilities are they going to meet in the program? What can these plans look like for the next benefit year? So for us, that's 2024. And it feels very early to be thinking about 2024. But, you know, we make these decisions very early in health care so that health insurance providers can create their plans, you know, build their benefits and make sure that they have a very valuable offering later in the year for open enrollment. So, you know, this is something that we are very, very focused on this time of year.

Sam Yates:

And I know as part of that focus, you're always wanting input for our audience right now. How can they either give input or get involved?

Kristine Grow:

That's a very good question. One thing that we do invite people who are interested is if they would like to do Why not the Coalition for Medicare Choices, they can come visit us at our website Medicare choices dot o RG, you can see a lot of our other members who are engaged and involved, we are very fortunate to have very involved members of our coalition who go to their state capitals, visit their representatives office go to Washington to tell the lawmakers how important the Medicare Advantage Program is. So we would encourage them to do that. Also to reach out directly to their members of Congress to let them know how important Medicare Advantage is for their health and financial security.

Sam Yates:

I'm sort of fortunate, just across the parking lot from my office is the home office here in Florida for a congressman Brian Mast. And he knows that if I see him in the parking lot, I'm going to be knocking on his door giving him some bots that I get from the seniors that I chat with and my guest. So sometimes I'm sure he goes, Oh, gosh, it's It's Sam again. But But I think that's important that we can't be bashful, we have to be forceful, or else we're gonna suffer the consequences. I think what

Kristine Grow:

you find is that members of Congress want to hear from their constituents, especially the seniors and people with disabilities that live in their home states in their home districts. So I would encourage folks, you know, never be afraid to reach out to your member of Congress, let them know what you're thinking, let them know what your priorities are. Because they value that input. They listen, and they take it to heart, especially when they go back to Washington and they start making important policy decisions.

Sam Yates:

We touched on it earlier in the program, what significant changes are happening now since you were last here back in June of last year.

Kristine Grow:

Right now we're in a critical period of time where CMS the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is making decisions about what the Medicare Advantage plans can look like there's this period and called the advance rate notice period, and they are making rules for 2024. We won't know what's in that advance notice for another week or so yet, but we are always watchful at the Coalition for Medicare Choices to see what this will include. We are watchful to see what what rules will govern these plans, and particularly what sorts of taxpayer dollar investments there are going to be made. We believe that Medicare Advantage is a very valuable investment of taxpayer dollars, we find that it regularly delivers greater value and greater savings over Original Medicare. So it's an important way to make best use of taxpayer dollars for America's seniors.

Sam Yates:

Now, I know speaking from experience that as you approach 65 members in my family are already planning or thinking during that seven month period before they turn 65 of what they should do. So that's sort of a critical period. We also have end of year critical period. And then we have a window of opportunity. Correct me if I'm wrong January through March, for them to also make decisions. So Decisions, decisions, decisions, how do you keep it all all sorted out?

Kristine Grow:

The good news is if you ever have questions about whether you're eligible to sign up for Medicare, or what those decisions look like, the federal government offers a really great website. And it's very easy to remember, it's medicare.gov. And you can find a lot of the information there. So when you go to that website, it'll tell you a lot of things about when you can sign up. Generally, when you turn 65, you're able to sign up for Medicare. That ability to sign up in this initial enrollment period lasts about seven months, starting three months before you turn 65. And ending three months after you turn 65. Then we have what's called a general enrollment period for coverage that starts on July one that takes place between January one and march 31 of every year. And then there are various special enrollment periods that people may want to make qualify for. One of the most important open enrollment seasons that we keep an eye on from our coalition is that period from say mid October to mid December. And that's the that is open enrollment for Medicare and Medicare Advantage. So there are a lot of deadlines, a lot of things to keep track of, but if you ever are in doubt, then you want to get you know a little bit more information about circumstances specific to you. I encourage folks to go to medicare.gov to learn more than

Sam Yates:

I think I was in our last episode with you saying that I have seen some very, very positive things happening for people who have special needs that you know, there are opportunities for them sort of change at any time if they get into that category of special needs.

Kristine Grow:

That's exactly right. And there are a lot of different kinds of special circumstances for which you might qualify for special enrollment period. So if you lose Medicaid coverage, that could be one qualifying event that allows you to look at Medicare options. If you missed a chance to sign up because you received inaccurate or misleading information, you may qualify for a special enrollment period, if there are other exceptional conditions that cause you to miss the deadline, that also may qualify you as well. So it's always worth checking and worth asking the question, because the worst they can say is no. And there are a lot of different variables that may qualify you for a special enrollment period.

Sam Yates:

Believe it or not, our audience is very active when it comes to thinking about some of these things. And I, I have found out in chatting with with them all over the country, that they are also very active voters does that send or should that said, a strong message to all of our legislators at at every level, whether it be our congressional representatives or our senators,

Kristine Grow:

That is absolutely true. And when we talk to senior voters who have Medicare Advantage, we get some very important results from them that they have to tell us directly. And we find that senior voters who choose Medicare Advantage are overwhelmingly satisfied with Medicare Advantage. In fact, 94% of them say that they're satisfied with their Medicare Advantage, health coverage, and 93% would say they would recommend it to their family and friends. That's some pretty astounding figures. I don't know the last time I saw any figure in which 93 and 94% of people agreed on much of anything. But Medicare Advantage has continued to have a history of better services, better access to care and better value, they continue to bring down the price point for these plans and increase the value. So it's no wonder that senior voters really say that this is an important program for them.

Sam Yates:

And I think senior voters also would like to see our legislative leaders put more funding into the programs.

Kristine Grow:

That's exactly right. And now Medicare Advantage is covering a lot of things that Original Medicare does not cover. And they do that because it's a competitive environment, a public private partnership between the federal government and private health insurance providers, health insurance providers compete to offer their products, that means they have to offer better benefits, better value for people who are investing. And they do that by negotiating with providers negotiating with prescription drug manufacturers for better care at a lower cost. What the senior voters are telling us is they want to make sure that as members of Congress, Senators at the federal government in the administration are looking at how do we best invest those taxpayer dollars for health care coverage. Medicare Advantage is an excellent way

Sam Yates:

Of course, when we stop and think about dental vision, and those things, those aren't covered by by Medicare. So that's where the Medicare Advantage programs especially come into great benefit.

Kristine Grow:

That is That is correct. And when we talk to people with Medicare Advantage, there are a couple of things that really float to the top in terms of what is important to them. Dental, Vision and hearing benefits are not covered by Original Medicare. And the vast, vast majority of Medicare Advantage plans do cover them. Other things that Medicare Advantage plans often cover are preventive services like screenings, vaccines and testing, especially testing for things like COVID-19, which is very important. And a lot of these plans also bundle in prescription drug coverage, which is not included in Original Medicare and is important for so many seniors and so many American families everywhere.

Sam Yates:

Costs. When we take a look at the cost of the various Medicare Advantage programs, you mentioned, it's very competitive. How do we get it to be more competitive?

Kristine Grow:

We continue to allow competition and innovation to thrive competition, innovation and choice are hallmarks of America and the American economy. And we believe that by allowing that competition to take place between health insurance providers, holding them accountable for quality and encouraging them to compete on value and costs, those costs continue to go down. And in Medicare Advantage historically those costs have been coming down. In fact, for 2023, we saw that the average Medicare Advantage premiums decreased another 8% so that the average premium is just $18 a month, and depending on where folks live and what plans are available, some folks are able to get a Medicare Advantage plan for $0 are additional premiums. So that is quite a bargain for a lot of the American seniors.

Sam Yates:

You're probably thinking the question is coming in, it's Sam asking, Can you come back again in the future? And oh, by the way, I have to say that I actually have looked forward to having you back because things have changed. And I think it's very important for our listeners to have updates on a regular basis. So that's me buttering the toast and say, Kristine, would you come back again, at some point in the future,

Kristine Grow:

I would be delighted to I'm always happy to visit with you, Sam and talk with you and to your listeners. There's new stuff happening in Medicare Advantage all the time. This year, we were able to announce and celebrate the fact that Medicare Advantage reached the 30 million member milestone. So we're super excited about the future of the program.

Sam Yates:

Rest assured we will have you back again in the future. Christine grow the Coalition for Medicare Choices. It has been my pleasure once again to have you here. And if I don't reach out to you soon enough, feel free to reach out to me because it is so important that our seniors be well informed.

Kristine Grow:

Thank you very much. I will be sure to do so.

Sam Yates:

And I'm Sam Yates your gray haired host of The Great American Senior Show. Have a great day everybody