Humana Insurance company is under investigation by Medicare for sending a letter to senior citizens warning them that the government wanted to cut their benefits.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), usually a friend to the health insurance industry, went after Humana hard. He urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to go after any insurance companies who are sending frightening letters to the elderly.
CMS has learned that Humana has been contacting enrollees in one or more of its plans and alleging that current health care reform legislation affecting Medicare could hurt "millions of seniors and disabled individuals [who] could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare advantage health plans so valuable." The message makes several other claims about the legislation and how it will be detrimental to enrollees, ultimately urging enrollees to contact their congressional representatives to protest the actions referenced in the letter...
CMS is concerned that, among other things, this information is misleading and confusing to
beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the
Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance for the MA and Part D programs and other federal law, including HIPAA. As we continue our
research into this issue, we are instructing you to end immediately all such mailings to
beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your
CMS also sent out an official memorandum to all sellers of private Medicare coverage and drug plans for seniors warning them not to follow Humana's example.
CMS has recently learned that some Medicare Advantage (MA) organizations have contacted enrollees alleging that current health care reform legislation affecting Medicare could hurt seniors and disabled individuals who could lose important benefits and services as a result of the legislation. The communications make several other claims about the legislation and how it will be detrimental to enrollees, ultimately urging enrollees to contact their congressional representatives to protest the proposals referenced in the letter.
Our priority is ensuring that accurate and clear information about the MA program is available to our beneficiaries. Thus, we are concerned about the recent mailings as they claim to convey legitimate Medicare program information about an individual's specific benefits or other plan information but instead offer misleading and/or confusing opinion and conjecture by the plan about the effect of health care reform legislation on the MA program and other information unrelated to a beneficiary's specific benefits.
Republicans, predictably, defended the insurance companies and accused Baucus of infringing on their free speech.
"It is outrageous that the Obama Administration is trying to keep seniors in the dark about the consequences of congressional Democrats' costly government-run health care bills. Would the Administration impose this sort of gag order if seniors were being given information promoting the Obama health care plan? I don't think so," said Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Baucus insisted that the insurers have no right to mislead seniors into believing that Medicare benefits would be cut.