Checks Mistakenly Sent to Medicare Beneficiaries
CMS has erroneously sent checks to 230,000 Medicare beneficiaries to reimburse them for almost $50 million in prescription drug benefit premiums, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports. CMS sent the checks, which average about $215 each, with a letter that erroneously informs Medicare beneficiaries that the agency will no longer deduct their monthly prescription drug benefit premiums from their Social Security checks.
According to CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, the error occurred because incorrect information was provided during the process in which the agency updated the Social Security Administration about changes in prescription drug coverage requested by Medicare beneficiaries that would affect their monthly premiums. About five million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the prescription drug benefit have decided to pay their monthly premiums through deductions from their Social Security checks.
CMS officials said that they detected the error a short time after the agency sent the checks last week.
CMS on Tuesday sent a second letter to inform Medicare beneficiaries who received the checks about the error and to apologize, McClellan said. He said that CMS will not have the ability to resume deductions of monthly prescription drug benefit premiums from Social Security checks for those Medicare beneficiaries until October.
In addition, McClellan said that those Medicare beneficiaries must return the funds to the federal government. According to McClellan, those Medicare beneficiaries will not experience a disruption of prescription drug coverage, and CMS will ensure that reimbursements continue to their prescription drug plans.
McClellan said, "It's very important for people to know their coverage is continuing," adding, "There's no disruption at all." He said, "The amounts involved here are generally not large, but we want to make sure that as we account for these extra payments, we do it in a way that's not burdensome. There are a number of approaches we can take, including doing (repayment) over time if necessary when it's no a trivial amount of money to the beneficiary" (Freking, AP/Wichita Eagle, 8/23).