CMS Tells Insurers to Stop Health Reform-Related Mailings

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , September 22, 2009

CMS is demanding that Medicare-contracted health insurance and prescription drug plans stop sending "potentially misleading mailings" to beneficiaries about healthcare reform.

CMS' announcement comes on the heels of Humana, Inc., sending similar mailings to beneficiaries. CMS announced on Friday that it is investigating whether Humana inappropriately used the lists of Medicare beneficiaries for "unauthorized purposes." The feds made the announcement after Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) spoke out about Humana's one-page letter. The Senator alleged that the insurer was trying to scare seniors.

"It is wholly inappropriate for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject—particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as healthcare reform," Baucus said in a statement Monday. "The healthcare reform bill we released last week strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program—and seniors need to know that."

Jonathan Blum, acting director of CMS' Center for Drug and Health Plan Choices, said Monday that the feds don't want beneficiaries to believe the health insurance plan-generated letter comes from the Medicare Advantage program.

"We are concerned that the materials Humana sent to our beneficiaries may violate Medicare rules by appearing to contain Medicare Advantage and prescription drug benefit information, which must be submitted to CMS for review," said Blum. "We also are asking that no other plan sponsors are mailing similar materials while we investigate whether a potential violation has occurred."

According to CMS, the feds learned that Humana had been contacting enrollees in mailings that CMS obtained, which claimed that current health reform legislation would hurt Medicare beneficiaries. Humana urged beneficiaries to contact their Congressional representatives to protest the reform.

Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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