is investigating Humana for trying to scare seniors about health care reform efforts in Congress. At issue is a letter Humana sent to its Medicare Advantage members claiming:
"millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable."
TPMmuckraker, has a copy of the letter here
. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus
"It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject — particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform. The health care reform bill we released last week strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program – and seniors need to know that."
CMS called the information included in Humana's mailings "misleading and confusing" and is investigating whether Humana broke any laws. CMS has now told Humana to stop the mailings and shut down the website created for seniors to send pre-written form letters to Congress. In it’s letter to Humana
, CMS says the mailing:
"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”
Of course, Humana’s letter also doesn’t bother to explain that the decision to drop MA coverage for seniors actually rests with the insurers
themselves. It’s America’s private insurers who are threatening to drop their coverage for seniors (just as happened after privatization efforts of the 80’s-90’s) if the government doesn’t continue to overpay them to the tune of $157 billion in subsidies over the next decade. There is nothing in the Finance Committee proposal or any other which cuts coverage for seniors
in Medicare -- just private insurers’ threats to do so if they can’t keep their government subsidies.
Humana also didn’t mention that even though the insurance industry has told Congress for decades it could provide better healthcare for seniors while saving Medicare money, it has never
happened. Currently, private insurers
like Humana charge Medicare an average of 14% more per beneficiary to provide coverage for only 20% of the Medicare population. Those inflated payments
to Medicare Advantage plans cost $15 billion a year, and are funded by all taxpayers and all Medicare beneficiaries (not just the 20 percent enrolled in private plans). Equalizing Medicare payments would save billions of dollars, reduce Medicare Part B premiums by $3.00 a month per beneficiary and return more than a year of solvency to the Medicare hospital trust fund.
Seniors should also keep in mind that according to MedPAC only about half of these overpayments to private insurers is used to deliver extra benefits for enrollees in Private Fee-For-Service plans. The remainder of the payments goes to administrative costs, marketing, and corporate profits. And, now comes the latest abuse, political mailers sent to seniors to scare them into unknowingly supporting higher premiums, reduced solvency for Medicare and billions in outrageous insurance industry giveaways.