Kristine Grow is a spokesperson with the Coalition for Medicare Choices.
The Coalition is a national grassroots organization of 2 million Americans working together to protect what matters most to us.
With Coalition members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, we’re working together to protect and strengthen Medicare Advantage.
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for High Velocity Radio.
Stone Payton: [00:00:14] Welcome to the High Velocity Radio show, where we celebrate top performers producing better results in less time. This is Stone Payton with you this afternoon. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast with Coalition for Medicare Choices, Ms. Kristine Grow. How are you?
Kristine Grow: [00:00:34] I am well. How are you today?
Stone Payton: [00:00:36] I am doing great. This is such a timely conversation for me for for reasons that will unveil here in a in a few moments. I’ve got a thousand questions. I know we won’t get to them all, but maybe a great place to start would be if you could articulate for for me and our listeners mission purpose. What are you and the coalition really out there trying to do for folks?
Kristine Grow: [00:01:00] Yeah, thanks very much for that question. So the Coalition for Medicare Choices represents millions of seniors from around the country who come together every year to let their lawmakers in the state and in Washington, D.C., know that Medicare Advantage is important for their health care coverage. It’s a great program that delivers very high satisfaction, very affordable, lots of great benefits, and it deserves to be protected.
Stone Payton: [00:01:26] Well, it sounds like a noble pursuit to me. So now I’ll tell you why it’s so timely. My wife, who has a real job with a little company called IBM, is looking to hang up her cleats before too long and she is 65. We are getting so much in the mail. We’re seeing so much on the television. So I got to tell my listening audience, if you want to get some great insight from some really smart people like Christine, get yourself a radio show. You can you can learn a lot. But maybe, you know, maybe that’s a great place to start is like, you know, the differences in in, you know, original Medicare and Medicare Advantage. And even for me, candidly, like there’s Medicaid and it sounds so similar. Can you just help us with some terms and some distinctions?
Kristine Grow: [00:02:12] Sure. So let’s talk first about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a health care coverage program offered by the federal government that covers Americans who are 65 years old or older or who have certain illnesses or disabilities. For example, one of the ones that people are most familiar with is if you have end stage renal disease, you’re eligible for Medicare. Medicaid is a state run program. It’s actually a partnership between the federal and state governments that covers low income Americans. So if you have a family or household income that is below a certain threshold, you qualify for Medicaid coverage. Now, it is possible that you could qualify for both programs. You may be over the age of 65, for example, and may have a low household income. And that case you may qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, which would make you something that we call a dual eligible, which means you are duly eligible for both programs.
Stone Payton: [00:03:16] All right. And so you got original Medicare and you got this Medicare Advantage. Talk about that distinction a little bit.
Kristine Grow: [00:03:24] Sure. So when you become eligible for Medicare, you have a choice. You can choose what coverage you enroll in. Medicare Part A and Part B are both part of what’s called original Medicare, and that is the basic Medicare program. Medicare Part A covers a good chunk of hospitalization costs. Medicare Part B covers a good chunk of many doctor’s services and visits, but they don’t cover everything. For example, they don’t cover prescription drugs. They don’t cover dental hearing or vision. They don’t cover a coordinated care or coordinated special care programs for different chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions or those such things. And that’s why a lot of seniors choose Medicare Advantage, because Medicare Advantage covers what original Medicare does. Plus a whole lot more. So it covers the vast majority of these plans, cover things like prescription drug coverage, dental vision, hearing, preventive care services like screenings and vaccinations for things like the flu. They do coordinated care, which just helps you kind of get all of your doctors and care providers talking to each other so that you get the best of of all that collective insight. Many of them also offer programs to help you manage some of these chronic conditions to help you get better, faster and stay healthier longer. So as a result of all that, what we’re finding today is that more than 30 million seniors and people with disabilities are choosing Medicare Advantage for their coverage. And when our coalition surveys senior voters who choose Medicare Advantage, we find that 94% of them are satisfied with their Medicare Advantage coverage. 93% say they would recommend it to their friends and their family. So this is a really important coverage choice for a lot of Americans. And it’s getting more and more popular. It’s very affordable and it brings them a lot of value.
Stone Payton: [00:05:22] Well, you had me at prescriptions, I got to tell you. So. So take me back to the beginning. What’s the back story on you? How did you get involved in this kind of work?
Kristine Grow: [00:05:33] Well, I’ve been involved in health care for more than a decade now. But, you know, because of this Medicare Advantage program is such an important partnership between the federal government and the private market, the health insurance providers who offer plans that your wife may be familiar with having employer provided coverage. You know, this is a program that encourages innovation. It is competitively bid every year. It encourages the health insurance providers to come up with more creative solutions for improving value, lowering the overall cost for better outcomes. And all of that is just really attractive. And being able to talk about that to an audience and being able to represent the interests of millions of seniors, that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.
Stone Payton: [00:06:20] Yeah. So what are you finding are the most popular benefits? Like what are the seniors most fired up about and really excited about in terms of the benefits here recently?
Kristine Grow: [00:06:32] There are two that they particularly say are very important to them. One is their preventive care services. As I mentioned, it’s things like health screenings, vaccinations, testing for illnesses or other conditions to make sure that they’re identifying illnesses or chronic conditions early and intervening early so that you can get a little bit healthier and avoid hospital visits. Nobody wants to end up in the hospital and nobody wants to end up in a in a clinical setting if they can help it. We find that 9 in 10 of those who have Medicare Advantage are satisfied with their preventive services. Likewise, we find that 9 in 10 senior voters are satisfied with the prescription drug coverage that they get through Medicare Advantage. So when you think about how frustrating the very high cost of prescription drugs can be, that is a really remarkable number. And that’s because these health insurance providers are negotiating lower prices with the pharmaceutical companies. They can represent the individual senior that way, lower their costs, protect them throughout the year as they continue to get different medications. So those are the two that really rise to the top for a lot of seniors.
Stone Payton: [00:07:44] I’ve got to believe you must sleep really well at night knowing that you’re that you’re doing for for these these kinds of things, for these folks. What are you finding the most rewarding? What do you enjoy the most about the work?
Kristine Grow: [00:07:59] I think it’s really hearing from the seniors, what’s important to them and their personal stories. You know, we hear everything from, you know, people who are very well on their wellness journey, and they may take fitness classes, for example, or they may have a very active lifestyle and. And Medicare Advantage plans allows them to continue that very healthy lifestyle and they’re able to do really amazing things. On the other hand, I also get to hear the stories about people who have been very, very sick or have had very serious health conditions in the past, and their Medicare Advantage plans have been able to help them get the care that they need, get the doctors that they need, help them to get better, to recover, to go into remission, you know, and just knowing that their health care coverage is there for them and that they really appreciate that value. I mean, that’s very rewarding. And when they come forward in millions and say that they want this program to be protected, you know, I’m happy to be part of that protection for them.
Stone Payton: [00:08:56] Well, you’ve mentioned, you know, there is a a I guess you would call it a political dimension to this. Right. You have to advocate for this to not only secure the protection that’s been won, but in some cases try to try to expand that, right?
Kristine Grow: [00:09:12] That’s right. And the way that happens is it’s a couple of ways. First, it is a federal government program, which means that every year the federal government and that’s the administration that’s led by the White House, is making decisions about how much the federal government is going to invest in the Medicare Advantage program for the next year. And that happens very early, because then health insurance providers look at that information and they create their plans based on that. So they want to offer these plans for as low cost as possible to seniors with the greatest benefits. This this is a program that has had very strong bipartisan support historically, and the cost of the program are very affordable. The average premium for a medicare Advantage plan is just $18 a month. And a lot of seniors are able to get it for $0 additional premium a month beyond what they pay for original Medicare. So it’s really important. But what we’re finding this year during this time that they’re determining rates for 2024 is that the administration seems to be making cuts to the program, and that means billions of dollars that will not go into the program for next year, which we’re very concerned will mean higher premiums and fewer benefits for seniors and people with disabilities. At a time that the Medicare trustees are projecting that health care costs for Medicare enrollees will go up an average of about 5% in 2024. That’s just the wrong direction. So we’re letting the White House know and the administration know Medicare Advantage deserves to be protected and it shouldn’t be cut.
Stone Payton: [00:10:52] Well, we’re certainly blessed to have you and the coalition working on these issues. What, if anything, can the layperson, you know, like like what can me and Holly and folks like us do? Should we be talking to our local politicians or.
Kristine Grow: [00:11:09] Absolutely. And I would say, Stone, that your voice is more important than mine. And because you have the you are the constituents of the members of Congress and the administration. And what we are encouraging people to do who care about this program is reach out to your members of Congress. Let them know how important Medicare Advantage is to you. Reach out to the White House and let the administration know how important it is to you. Our coalition has some very important tools that allow people to make that kind of outreach very quickly and easily. So if you’re interested in learning more about this and how you can help, we’d encourage folks to visit us on our website at Medicare choices.org.
Stone Payton: [00:11:51] Well, that’s an important resource, I think I confess to you early on. I mean, at this stage, at least prior to this conversation, I got to be candid, Holly and I both I’ll even use the word intimidated, but certainly confused and haven’t really dived into the information, I guess, already, kind of a preconceived notion that we’re going to get misinformation. And I’m sure there is some misinformation, misconceptions floating around out there. But with this centralized resource, I would think that would be incredibly helpful.
Kristine Grow: [00:12:24] Yeah, I would say it’s very important to our coalition that people get trusted, reliable information that helps them make decisions about Medicare coverage. The federal government actually has a really good website at Medicare.gov that provides some very easy to understand and easy to navigate information about how the Medicare program works. They have a tool on there called Medicare Plan Finder that you can use, especially during open enrollment, to help you make a choice that makes sense for you. Our coalition website, I mean, certainly we’re not encourage anybody to make any certain buying decisions. But if you want to hear the stories about the seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage and just learn more about the general program, we have a lot of stories and resources on our site.
Stone Payton: [00:13:11] Well, that is good to know. And before we wrap, we’re going to make sure that we get those URLs, those websites again, and we’re going to make sure that we publish those when we publish this interview. Another thing I’ll just confess to you here again, real time. You mentioned a figure of $18 a month. I guess one of my preconceived notions was that this was going to be terribly expensive and it doesn’t sound like it is.
Kristine Grow: [00:13:35] Well, it isn’t. And I think that’s a good point because the program is so competitive. You know, these health insurance providers want the business of the seniors and they want to serve them well and they want to make sure that they’re offering seniors a plan that they’re going to value. So because we’ve got so much robust competition in the market, they are working very hard to negotiate the lowest prices and the best benefits of the lowest prices. You know, this is a program that has been working for years. The members of Congress and the administration have designed this program to work really well. It gets better and better every single year for seniors. Now, at a time where we have more people who are aging into Medicare eligibility, you know, it deserves to be protected so that it can continue to deliver that sort of value.
Stone Payton: [00:14:20] I got to tell you, my wife, Holly, rarely listens to any of my shows, and there are plenty to choose from. But I guarantee you she’s going to want to listen in on this interview and go to these websites. All right. Before we wrap, if there are any tips on things we should be reading, not reading. It sounds like we’ve already got two great resources that you mentioned. And let’s make sure that people do have those websites and any any other points of contact ways to connect and tap into this work. That would be incredibly helpful.
Kristine Grow: [00:14:52] Absolutely. So you can reach our coalition at Medicare choices.org. We have a lot of information and tools there available for you to learn more generally about the Medicare program. You can go to medicare.gov and to reach out to have your voice heard on this issue. We encourage you to reach out to your senators offices, reach out to your representatives, and reach out to the White House to let them know.
Stone Payton: [00:15:16] Well, Christine, it has been an absolute delight having you on the show this afternoon. I got to tell you, it’s been one of the the more informative and I’ll even say inspiring segments that we’ve had in a long time. This is incredibly helpful to me personally. Keep up the good work what you and your and your group are doing. It’s so important. And I just I can’t thank you enough for joining us.
Kristine Grow: [00:15:42] Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Stone Payton: [00:15:46] Well, it is my pleasure. All right. Until next time, this is Stone Payton for our guest today, Christine Grove with Coalition for Medicare Choices. And everyone here at the Business RadioX family saying we’ll see you in the fast lane.