Legislation Needed To Improve Access to Tax Records
Congress should pass legislation that would allow the Internal Revenue Service to provide HHS with tax records that could help identify Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for a low-income subsidy that provides financial assistance under the prescription drug benefit, HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote in letter to acting CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk, the AP/Albany Times Union reports.
About two million beneficiaries have been approved for the subsidy, which is available to beneficiaries with incomes of less than 150% of the federal poverty level and certain assets of no more than $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for married couples.
Officials estimate that about 6.1 million beneficiaries are eligible for the subsidy, but Levinson said it is impossible to know the exact number without the IRS records. He added, "Without knowing the true population of potentially eligible beneficiaries, it is difficult to judge the success of current outreach and enrollment efforts."
Federal law does not permit IRS to share the records for the purpose of identifying beneficiaries who are eligible for the drug benefit.
Levinson said Congress should pass a law allowing IRS to share the information, adding that there is precedent because tax records are used in cases to determine whether an insurer other than Medicare should have paid for a patient's care.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he is open to ideas that could help beneficiaries, adding that any changes to tax laws must be considered carefully (Freking, AP/Albany Times Union, 11/21).