Drug Benefit Premium Deductions Remain an Issue
About 50,000 of the 4.7 million Medicare beneficiaries who opted to have their Medicare prescription drug benefit premiums automatically withdrawn from their Social Security checks still are having incorrect amounts deducted, CMS officials said, USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 11/8).
In August, CMS erroneously reimbursed 230,000 beneficiaries for their drug benefit premiums after a computer glitch occurred while the agency was updating beneficiary information with the Social Security Administration (California Healthline, 9/5).
An additional 400,000 to 500,000 beneficiaries have experienced other errors, some of which resulted in the lack of payment of premiums for months (California Healthline, 9/18).
Other beneficiaries are having money incorrectly withheld from their Social Security checks.
Jim Kerr, an acting deputy director at CMS, said that the agency resolved about 100,000 cases last month but that about 50,000 beneficiaries still are experiencing problems. "It has taken a great deal of time to resolve some them, unfortunately," Kerr said. He suggested that beneficiaries who want their premiums deducted from their Social Security checks for the 2007 plan year sign up before Dec. 8.
Some advocacy groups are advising beneficiaries to avoid participating in the Social Security deductions for next year and instead use other methods to pay their premiums. They say the problems with the automatic deductions have been ongoing since the drug benefit began.
Deane Beebe of the Medicare Rights Center said, "We have cases that go back as far as July and have not been resolved" (USA Today, 11/8).