On health care policy, here’s where Democrats and Republicans can agree
While partisan battles often dominate headlines, there are leaders on both sides of Capitol Hill working to enact reforms that meaningfully improve the health of the constituents we serve.
We count it a privilege to be part of those efforts. And with six in 10 Americans saying that reducing health costs should be a top priority, Congress must keep working towards bipartisan health care solutions where possible.
Congress has done this before, from 2016’s 21st Century Cures Act, to 2018’s landmark opioid safety law, to COVID relief measures like the CARES Act,which passed by a vote of 415 to 2. Weeks ago, Congress acted again with its overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health Act, establishing an independent agency to accelerate biomedical innovation. Congress also came together recently to pass the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, legislation that will improve access to mental health services and further address the opioid crisis.
Another area in health care with bipartisanship agreement: support for Medicare Advantage — the quarter-century old public-private partnership in Medicare of which over 28 million beneficiaries have actively chosen to enroll. The program is projected to exceed half of all Medicare beneficiaries within the next year.
The law originally passed with strong bipartisan support in a Republican-led Congress and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It is clear that leaders on both sides of the aisle can lay claim to Medicare Advantage’s story. As we look to overcome partisan divides and protect our fellow Americans’ health and financial security, this coverage option offers lessons for policymakers and advocates alike.
Seniors throughout the country have increasingly chosen Medicare Advantage for their health care coverage. According to data from the Better Medicare Alliance, more than 47 percent of Arizona’s seniors who are eligible for Medicare are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Likewise, in Florida, more than 52 percent of seniors chose enrollment in Medicare Advantage.
It’s not hard to see why. Today Medicare Advantage is already acting on many of the health policy goals that leaders on both sides of the aisle have set forth. For example, as families contend with rising costs, a new analysis shows that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries save nearly $2,000 per year on health expenditures compared to enrollees in original Medicare. For many of our seniors living on fixed incomes, that cost savings can be decisive in providing quality care and financial security simultaneously.
Likewise, as Congress looks to shore up the Medicare trust fund for future generations of enrollees, another study shows that Medicare Advantage maintains lower per-beneficiary government spending and greater value for the taxpayer’s dollar. As the researchers explain, “the federal government pays less and gets more for its dollar in MA.”
Add to that Medicare Advantage’s extra benefits that address seniors’ clinical and social needs and consistently high beneficiary satisfaction numbers — all while providing coverage to a proportionally more diverse, lower income, and more socially at-risk beneficiary population than original Medicare — and you have a bipartisan health policy feat that’s worth protecting.
But these successes don’t happen by accident. Medicare Advantage, like original Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, depends on stable financing from Washington to deliver for the American people who are counting on its continued strength. This is one of the reasons that both of our offices are also committed to eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse across federal health programs.
For those reasons and more, we joined a record-setting 346 members of the U.S. House of Representatives — 80 percent of the chamber — in sending a letter to the Biden administration earlier this year urging continued support for Medicare Advantage.
As health care policy can remain sharply polarized, we must continue to support bipartisan and popular polices like Medicare Advantage while standing against policies that would turn back the clock on this valuable coverage option. When policymakers lead with facts over partisan impulses, support for Medicare Advantage will continue to grow.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran represents Arizona’s 1st District. Rep. Gus Bilirakis represents Florida’s 12th District.
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