I will never forget the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. When then Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, he promised the American people affordable, accessible healthcare. And he certainly made good on his word, making it a cornerstone of his administration.
Like former President Obama, Colorado Democrats believe that every Coloradan should have access to affordable healthcare, and that no one should go broke just because they get sick. We believe that after a lifetime of hard work, seniors deserve to retire with dignity and security and that we have a responsibility to our communities. As the former chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, I fought for these ideals every single day, which is why I am now a proud Medicare Advantage beneficiary and advocate. As a nurse and a psychotherapist, healthcare issues were what brought me into politics and public service.
In the middle of a global healthcare crisis, the last things Colorado’s seniors should have to deal with is surprise medical bills or losing healthcare coverage. Seniors have dealt with a lot this year, being socially isolated and living in fear from the risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19. Not to mention, our economy has been hit hard. As a senior myself, I know this firsthand. Fortunately, my husband and I are among the 395,000 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in our state, and we know the way that Medicare Advantage brings affordable and quality healthcare to our seniors.
In response to COVID-19, Medicare Advantage quickly made important changes to respond to the crisis and ensure the health and safety of Colorado’s seniors. My husband and I were able to access the COVID-19 vaccine that was completely covered under our plan, and we began to have our prescriptions and groceries delivered at no extra cost, limiting our trips to the store and potential exposure. While my husband and I were lucky that we stayed healthy throughout, our plan also waived patient cost-sharing for any treatment relating to COVID-19.
On top of the economic crisis resulting from COVID-19, many seniors are already living on fixed incomes with little leeway. Colorado’s seniors plan and save for years to retire. After this lifetime of hard work, we deserve to have not only financial security, but security in our healthcare. Medicare Advantage takes all of this into account, capping out of pocket costs and ensuring coverage for specialists that other plans will not, like vision, dental, and hearing care. The plan recognizes that there are other socioeconomic barriers to health, and provides transportation, meals, and assistance with housing for those who need it. This focus on equity in healthcare access helps us achieve our goals of promising everyone affordable, accessible healthcare.
The Democratic party here in our state has made a commitment to our seniors: to protect their retirement and healthcare. And there is no better way to do so than embracing Medicare Advantage. Unlike the political fighting that President Obama had to navigate when addressing healthcare during his time in Washington, Medicare Advantage has bipartisan support. Sen. John Hickenlooper must be a leader in advocating for this important program. His senior constituents are counting on him.
Pat Waak is the former Chair of the Colorado Democratic Party.