NAIC Warns Health Insurers Against Scare Tactics

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 28, 2009

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has joined CMS in warning insurance companies to end practices that alarm senior citizens about federal health reform efforts, and is calling on Congress for changes to end marketing and sales abuses. In a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), the NAIC cites indication from CMS of possible "misleading communications" to policyholders.

"State insurance regulators take scare tactics directed at senior citizens very seriously," said NAIC President and New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. "To the extent that state insurance agents and brokers may be participating in these communications or insurance companies are contacting non-Medicare Advantage policyholders, state regulators will remain vigilant and take appropriate action."

Sandy Praeger, chair of NAIC’s Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee and Kansas insurance commissioner says "state regulators believe that these troublesome practices are directly tied to excess payments made to Medicare Advantage plans, and support changes made to federal law that would reign in these abuses."

"In addition to changes to payments made to Medicare Advantage plans, we urge you to restore state insurance regulatory authority over Medicare private plans," Praeger says.

On Sept. 22, CMS demanded that Medicare-contracted health insurance and prescription drug plans stop sending the mailings to beneficiaries. CMS' announcement came on the heels of Humana, Inc., sending similar mailings to beneficiaries. CMS announced on Sept. 18 that it is investigating whether Humana inappropriately used the lists of Medicare beneficiaries for "unauthorized purposes." The feds made the announcement after Baucus spoke out about Humana's one-page letter. The Senator alleged that the insurer was trying to scare seniors.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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