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School Retirees Oppose Potential Medicare Advantage Cuts


Members of the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees are concerned about potential cuts to Medicare Advantage at the federal level.

The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may cut Medicare Advantage payments by an average of 2.27 percent in 2024, according to a study done by healthcare consulting firm Avalere Health of an advance notice released by the CMS last month. 

The agency itself, as well as federal officials like Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, pushed back against the claims and are projecting a 1 percent increase in payments instead. 

Medicare Advantage, also known as the Part C plan, is offered by private companies to offer the same benefits as Medicare Parts A and B for lower monthly premiums, though that potentially also comes with higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Charmell Radcliff, president of the West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees, is concerned the potential cuts could result in fewer benefits and higher premiums for retirees. More than 192,000 people are enrolled in Medicare Advantage statewide.

“As a senior citizen on a fixed income, an estimated raise in premiums and a decrease in benefits would cost each one enrolled in the (Medicare Advantage) plan $45 a month, or $540 a year,” Radcliff said.

The association has reached out to those in the Biden administration urging them to protect the plan from cuts, including sending a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. 

A bipartisan group of 61 United States Senators have also expressed the same concerns in a letter to the CMS, including West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

“With 53 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees living on less than $25,000 per year, combined with increasing pressures on Americans’ budgets, it is critical that older adults and individuals with disabilities continue to have stable access to these cost protections that are only available in Medicare Advantage,” their letter read.

The pushback comes at the same time unions, like the AFL-CIO, are opposing state Senate Bill 268, which would try to address the insolvency of the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency by increasing health insurance premiums for those enrolled and removing spouses eligible for their own insurance from coverage. It passed the Senate Thursday and is currently in the House of Delegates.

Final rate payment changes for 2024 are scheduled to be announced by the CMS in April.