Rep. Dr. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) on Aug. 5 told a group of seniors at the Senior Center of Elk Grove that Medicare Advantage is superior to traditional Medicare.
Bera described Medicare Advantage – the managed care program for Medicare beneficiaries – as having much to do with prevention.
“The goal should be to keep you as healthy as possible, and prevent diseases as opposed to waiting until the disease happens and then taking care of it,” he said. “That’s the simplest explanation. And that’s why I’m such a strong supporter of Medicare Advantage programs, because, as a doctor, I think our goal should be to try to prevent diseases and keep you healthy as long as possible.”
When it comes to discussing Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs, Bera said that he has the benefit of serving as both a congressman and a physician.
“I’m a member of Congress, but truly I’m a doctor first,” he said. “I practiced in our community and served our community for over 21 years. I’ve taken care of literally hundreds of seniors who depend on Medicare. And that’s why Medicare and Medicare Advantage are programs that are so critical and important that I continue to fight for.”
Bera added that he has continuously strived to make programs in the Medicare system affordable.
Medicare Advantage is available to seniors at a cost that often includes no or very low premiums. And the program frequently offers services like vision and dental that extend further than what traditional Medicare offers.
Currently, 2.1 million Californians utilize Medicare Advantage plans. Bera hopes that this number will continue to increase.
“A lot of us think (Medicare Advantage) does provide better care and lower the cost of care,” he said. “And that is one reason why historically we’ve been pushing folks to sign up for Medicare Advantage programs.”
According to Health Affairs, a health policy journal, Medicare Advantage enrollees experienced lower incidences of emergency services.
The American Journal of Managed Care reported that the Medicare Advantage readmission rate to hospitals is about 13 to 20 percent lower than the readmission rate to hospitals in the traditional Medicare program.
Bera also commented about the cost of prescription drugs, which he noted are “taking a bigger and bigger chunk of seniors’ retirement income.”
“We have to make sure our drugs are not only accessible, but that they’re affordable, as well,” he said. “And that’s something that we are working on in Congress.”
The event, which was sponsored by the Coalition for Medicare Choices, also included a special presentation, as Bera was honored by seniors with a “Champion Award” for his support of Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs.
Bera is running for re-election in California’s 7th Congressional District this November. He is opposed by Republican candidate and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.