Beginning January 21, America’s Health Insurance Plans are expected to announce a new advertising campaign entitled “Seniors are Watching”. Insiders are calling it the group’s most ambitious ad campaign for Medicare Advantage. The campaign has been planned as preparation for an annual notice that sets Medicare’s payment rates for the year to come.
You can look for the ads next week in buses throughout the Washington area, as a start. From there, they’ll be showing up on TV, as well as in print and digital promotions. Add to this a grassroots effort from the Coalition for Medicare Choices, an advocacy group which AHIP claims includes nearly two million senior citizens. Those are the folks who, according to one of the ads, “[are] ready to defend the Medicare Advantage coverage they like and want to keep.”
The well-financed campaign follows a successful campaign that was used last year to combat a proposed 2.3% cut by CMS. Each February, the agency releases proposed pay rates for Medicare Advantage plans set to take effect the next fiscal year. The estimate is typically based on anticipated health care costs, which have been growing at a slower rate than at nearly any time in history.
For most of this century, the calculation has been made with the assumption that a deep cut to physician payments would go into effect and lower those anticipated costs. But in reality, Congress has reversed those physician cuts each year. There is currently a bill in Congress that would repeal the troubled formula.
Advertising in New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, and letters from more than 150 lawmakers, brought a lot of pressure to bear in 2013. As a result, CMS reversed its standard assumption, and the plans saw a 3.3% increase instead of the usual 2.3% cut.
The new ad campaign comes as Medicare Advantage is confronted with a flurry of fees and payment reductions the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), in addition to cuts from the earlier budget sequester.
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