Cheryl Elias Opinion: Medicare Advantage Supports Rural Seniors

There is nothing more important in life than our health. As the holiday season edges closer, it is more important than ever for older Americans to take account of their well-being and ensure that they can spend the holidays with friends and family without worrying about their health.

I am the executive director of the US Rural Health Network, a nonprofit dedicated to creating and maintaining a dialogue between national healthcare advocates and rural communities. We advocate on the behalf of Americans living in typically underserved areas based on their geographical location.

The populations we serve, specifically seniors, in rural areas, struggle to access necessary medical treatment and healthcare due to barriers to care that exist in rural communities. These seniors are sometimes forced to forego the medications and treatments that would benefit them due to far distances and overworked health providers in their area.

We are constantly working towards and looking for ways to ease the struggle some face in seeking suitable health care in these communities. We want the best for everyone’s health — no one should feel that their health is at risk. That is why I support Medicare Advantage, because of their accessible, expansive, and affordable coverage for their enrollees.

Telehealth is such an imperative tool for rural communities to use when accessing care, as many of those in these areas live far from doctors and clinics. It can be quite strenuous for seniors to physically get to the clinics, especially if they are unwell. Luckily, Medicare Advantage offers expanded access to telehealth services, which allows the most vulnerable Americans to consult with their doctors by phone or video to address their medical concerns while safe at home. The invention of telehealth has completely changed how we can receive medical attention — and where. It removes the struggle for older people to travel to doctor’s offices.

Let’s face it — it can be hard getting older. There are so many new challenges one must face when aging. For seniors living in rural communities, it is especially difficult to cope. There is an inordinate amount of both physical and figurative barriers that inhibit rural seniors from getting the proper care they need. But Medicare Advantage truly makes things easier for them.

Medicare Advantage provides peace of mind for seniors struggling with their health and or living on a fixed income. By capping out-of-pocket costs, lowering the costs of prescription drugs, and offering benefits such as integrated vision, hearing, and dental coverage, wellness programs, and in-home caregiver support, seniors can feel supported. With an average premium of just $18 per month, Medicare Advantage plans keep costs low so that people do not have to worry about their health or any financial stress.

In my years working on this issue, I have seen great advances in medical care for our rural communities and seniors. I can see the impact Medicare Advantage has made for these people but we, as an organization, cannot create change without the cooperation of members of Congress who support Medicare Advantage. We need support from our lawmakers in order to keep protecting the health of members of our community.

I congratulate Representative-elects Laurel Lee and Anna Paulina Luna on their recent elections to Congress and encourage them to stand up for rural Americans and vulnerable seniors by lending their support to Medicare Advantage.

Cheryl Elias is the executive director of the US Rural Health Network.

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