Over the past year, my priority has been protecting the most vulnerable people of Florida’s 12th Congressional District from COVID-19, in every way. This has meant reopening our economy safely, restoring our small businesses, and ensuring that our community members have access to affordable, quality health care.
The pandemic has acted as a litmus test, showing us which policies fail Floridians during a time of health and fiscal instability and also the policies and programs that can withstand a crisis and benefit our communities. I am happy to say that Medicare Advantage is one of the programs that continues proving its value and importance to seniors in our district and across the country.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with several seniors to discuss Medicare Advantage, and the ways it has kept them safe and healthy throughout the pandemic. And let me tell you, this program has taken care of our seniors in every way. Their Medicare Advantage plans sent them masks, gloves, and thermometers when they were advised not to leave their homes. Medicare Advantage also provided affordable access to telehealth to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19 at a doctor’s office, and even covered virtual fitness programs to help them stay in shape throughout isolation. These tools proved to be invaluable to our seniors as they navigated a frightening and unprecedented year.
Our seniors also reported, by and large, that Medicare Advantage coverage of virtual telehealth gave them the peace of mind they needed in the face of the pandemic. When they were anxious about leaving their home or visiting a health care facility, they could conveniently access regular doctor or specialist appointments without leaving the safety and comfort of their living room.
Building on Medicare Advantage’s adjustments making health care more accessible, I am proud to have co-authored a bill which will it even easier for our seniors to access health care from home. The Ensuring Parity in MA and PACE for Audio-Only Telehealth Act (HR 2166), will help to ensure that our seniors who cannot access video telehealth can access care through their phone. This bill will be especially beneficial to our rural communities and individuals who may not have convenient access to a computer. Our seniors and most vulnerable patients need flexibility and options to meet their health needs, helping them to stay healthier in the long run.
Even amid today’s partisan divides, Medicare Advantage has tremendous bipartisan support. Meeting with my constituents confirmed for me why Medicare Advantage beneficiaries report overwhelming satisfaction with their plan, reporting that the program keeps their premiums and copays low.
Today, I am more committed than ever to supporting Medicare Advantage. I have watched as it has supported our most vulnerable seniors and community members throughout the pandemic over the last year, and I know that it will continue to benefit Floridians, and seniors across the country. I hope my Congressional colleagues will join me in supporting both the Medicare Advantage program and HR 2166, which I co-introduced with Alabama Democratic Congresswoman Terry Sewell, so we can continue increasing access to health care and supporting our seniors.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis represents Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes part of Clearwater and Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, New Port Richey, Dade City, and Zephyrhills.