Schwartz to lead new Medicare-focused group

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.) will become the president and CEO of a group working to support Medicare Advantage, a Medicare program that has often been targeted for reform.

She will be leading the Better Medicare Alliance, made up of health insurers (like Aetna), hospitals, medical providers, and advocates for Medicare Advantage recipients. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is another member of the alliance, which launched in December.

The position would seem to draw on Schwartz’s deep experience working on health care and knowledge of Congress. Until January she represented a district that includes parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia. She ran for governor but lost in the Democratic primary.

"It is clear that there is work to do to protect and sustain Medicare for our seniors today and for the future," Schwartz wrote in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday morning.

She called for focusing on primary care, better coordination of care, improving treatment for chronic conditions and modernizing financing and delivery of health care.

"This is happening across the country for millions of seniors who choose Medicare Advantage," she wrote. With the alliance "I look forward to reaching out to everyone who cares about keeping the promise of Medicare to our seniors, to build on the experience of what works, and to share this knowledge to sustain Medicare for all of us."

Schwartz worked on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) while in Congress, among many other health issues.

Medicare Advantage offers an alternative to traditional government-run Medicare. It allows recipients to choose plans offered by private companies that contract with Medicare. Enrollment has surged in recent years and Medicare Advantage now accounts for around 30 percent of Medicare recipients, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 17 million people get their coverage through Medicare Advantage, the alliance said.

The program has at times been targeted for cost savings. The Affordable Care Act called for reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans over time, provided bonus payments based on quality ratings and, starting in 2014, limited the amount of money Medicare Advantage plans could count toward administrative expenses and profits, according to Kaiser.

The Alliance Schwartz has signed on to lead says its goal is to “support and strengthen” Medicare Advantage.

“Allyson Schwartz’s deep knowledge of health policy will be a great asset,” Christobel Selecky, chair of the Population Health Alliance, said in the release announcing Schwartz’s new role.


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