Medicare won’t help Part D beneficiaries recover insurance overcharges

Seniors who have been overcharged by Medicare’s prescription drug program shouldn’t look to the government for help.  The government-run health-care program for older adults appears to have washed its hands of any responsibility for mistakes that have cost subscribers and taxpayers several billion dollars.  That was the message contained in Medicare’s response this week to a series of questions that Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri posed about problems with the prescription drug program.  “I was shocked at this answer because it basically said, ‘Tough. We’re not worried about them (seniors),’” McCaskill said at a Senate hearing Wednesday. McCaskill, a Democrat, wrote Medicare in January after the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 80 percent of the insurance companies participating in the drug program, Medicare Part D, owed Medicare about $4.4 billion for 2006 alone.  Among her questions was how overcharged subscribers could be reimbursed.  “… the beneficiary knows the premium cost before enrolling in the plan,” Medicare replied in a letter to McCaskill on Tuesday. “Furthermore, beneficiaries have access to detailed plan information; therefore if a beneficiary is not satisfied with a plan’s premium, the beneficiary may enroll in a less expensive plan for the coming year.”  After reading the response aloud, McCaskill said, “Are you kidding me? Seriously. Do you think my mother is supposed to go through her plan and figure out somehow that she’s been overcharged and all she has to do next year is pick a cheaper plan?”  Hearing witness Deb Taylor, acting director of Medicare’s Office of Financial Management, told McCaskill that she was unable to say how subscribers could be reimbursed.

Source:  April 22, 2009 edition of the Kansas City Star