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Senators Hassan and Marshall Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Seniors with Medicare Coverage Options

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS) introduced the bipartisan Medicare & You Handbook Improvement Act, which will help ensure that when seniors assess their Medicare coverage options, they understand the challenges that Medicare Advantage can have.  

The bill will improve education materials for America’s seniors during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period, and is in response to concerns that seniors shared about inadvertently selecting Medicare plans that do not best meet their health care needs.

“When deciding whether to enroll in traditional Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, seniors rely on the official Medicare & You handbook. Unfortunately, the handbook does not fully address the challenges Medicare Advantage can create for seniors,” said Senator Hassan. “My bipartisan bill would address this by improving the handbook and adding key information that is currently missing. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this bill, and I will continue working to strengthen Medicare.”

“The Medicare & You handbook has improved over the years, but still lacks on sharing some vital information on health plan choices and supplemental health insurance,” said Senator Marshall. “I’ve grown increasingly concerned about mass marketing ad campaigns during open enrollment, and want to be sure that seniors are selecting plans that best meets their health and financial needs. That’s why Senator Hassan and I introduced bipartisan legislation to close that knowledge gap so seniors know about potential pitfalls. Like my grandma always said, ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.’”

The Medicare & You handbook is the official handbook that guides new and current Medicare beneficiaries on the Medicare program. Published by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the handbook is mailed to every Medicare household each fall and includes a summary of Medicare benefits, patient protections, a list of available health and drug plans, and some helpful FAQs on Medicare. Notably, it provides a comparison of Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage (MA). While the handbook has evolved over the years to be more reader-friendly, it does not maintain information on techniques that help MA plans control costs and aim to ensure seniors receive appropriate care.

The Medicare & You Handbook Improvement Act of 2022 would improve beneficiary education by requiring CMS to include information on the following:

  • A description of what utilization management techniques are including prior authorization and step therapy, and how a beneficiary can find which techniques apply under a specific MA plan or prescription drug plan.
  • A description of the network sizes of MA plans relative to the number of health care providers who accept Original Medicare.
  • A description explaining that when seniors switch to a MA plan and later switch back to Original Medicare, they may be prohibited from purchasing supplemental coverage or else have to pay significantly higher premiums.

The legislation complements the Improving Seniors' Timely Access to Care Act, legislation that would modernize Medicare Advantage and make health care delivery more patient and doctor friendly. The bill – sponsored by Senator Marshall and cosponsored by Senator Hassan – has support from 50 Senators and support from over 500 national and state organizations. Senator Hassan also joined colleagues in calling for the Biden administration to implement additional consumer protections in Medicare Advantage, following an increase in reports of deceptive marketing practices aimed at seniors in the program, and joined the NH Congressional Delegation in urging CMS to take action to protect eligible New Hampshire Medicare beneficiaries subject to aggressive and potentially predatory marketing tactics related to the sale of Medicare Advantage plans or other insurance products.

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