By Wendell Harris
President of the Wisconsin NAACP
The NAACP has long taken pride in advancing the social and political rights for African Americans and other historically marginalized groups. Promoting access to healthcare has been a long battle for us, and the disheartening news that Medicare Advantage, a critical component of Medicare, faces potential cuts must be addressed. Nearly half of the entire Medicare-eligible population has chosen Medicare Advantage due to its health outcomes, comprehensive coverage, supplemental benefits, and cost savings. In Wisconsin alone, 608,911 seniors and individuals with disabilities rely on Medicare Advantage for their health care coverage.
Over the last couple of years, Medicare Advantage has grown to serve traditionally underserved and historically marginalized communities. A 2022 JAMA research letter reports that an increasing number of Black, Hispanic, and low-income beneficiaries have been choosing Medicare Advantage partially due to the better health outcomes and cost savings for minority communities that Medicare Advantage achieves by addressing Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).
Recently, the National Caucus for Black Aging (NCBA) released a report highlighting the benefits of Medicare Advantage for Black Americans. The report found that, on average, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries have a 43 percent lower rate of avoidable hospitalizations compared to traditional Fee-For-Service Medicare.
Another report from the Medical College of Wisconsin found in 2019 that Black individuals are six times more likely to suffer from a diabetes diagnosis. Food insecurity and inaccessible health care are large components of why Black Americans suffer more, but a recent study from Avalere Health found that Medicare Advantage has unique positive impacts for beneficiaries living with the disease.
Through the comprehensive care provided that often detects diabetes early; the prescribed and affordable medication; and the supplemental benefits like gym memberships or food delivery, Medicare Advantage provides patients with additional support not found in traditional Fee-For-Service Medicare. Cutting Medicare Advantage means these lifesaving treatment options are at risk, and minority communities are at risk as well.