Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Scamming Seniors and Keeping Millions Owed the Poor…is this the Magic of the Market?

What a day it has been for private insurers reaping the profits of the Medicare Privatization…oops, we mean…Modernization Act. A new GAO report released to the Senate Finance Committee today confirms what many had already suspected. The privatization of Medicare might be good for business but it’s not serving seniors' needs. CMS got an earful from Senators on the Senate Finance Committee today, including Chairman Max Baucus:

I don’t get the feeling that CMS is looking out for seniors. I don’t get that feeling at all. These are basically renegade plans…my personal view is more needs to be done.

The GAO reports that, not only are taxpayers overpaying private insurers (at 111%) to do what Medicare already does, it’s now clear that millions of dollars paid to insurers to cover Medicare’s poorest beneficiaries was never even offered to the people these funds were earmarked for. Medicare paid insurers $100 million last year to provide retroactive coverage for poor seniors who qualify as “dual-eligibles”. However, the GAO says more than 400,000 beneficiaries who qualify for this money weren’t told it exists until after CMS saw a draft copy of this GAO report just over a month ago. $100 million to insurers…$0 to seniors.

Acting CMS administrator, Leslie Norwalk, objects to the “overwhelmingly negative tone” of the GAO report. We’re not quite sure what the positive side of this news would be.

Now, to the scamming seniors part of today’s news. The New York Times has followed up on Robert Pear’s excellent article on marketing scams being perpetrated nationwide by agents sellingMedicare Advantage plans to seniors. Today’s editorial focuses on the abusive sales tactics being used to push these privatized plans on beneficiaries who don’t want to leave their Medicare plans. Only to find out, after the fact, their doctors or treatment might not be covered under the new MA plan.

At some point don’t we all have to ask…why is our government pushing a privatized Medicare system designed to profit private industry, cost taxpayers more than what already exists and inflicts harm on the same beneficiaries the program was originally designed to serve?

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