MEDICARE SYSTEMS ERROR: ‘Snafu’ Shortchanged Seniors, Disabled
About 16,400 low-income seniors and disabled social security recipients were "mistakenly dropped" last month from a state program that pays their Medicare premiums, the Sacramento Bee reports. The recipients will receive checks reduced by $136.50 -- the equivalent of three months of Medicare premiums. The California Department of Health Services and the Social Security Administration says it "can't move quickly enough" to stop the Nov. 3 mailing of the reduced checks. Given that the average retiree receives only $781 per month, the payments debacle is considered a "significant amount of money," says Lowell Kepke, a spokesperson with the Social Security Administration. The error occurred several weeks ago when state employees making changes to the state's Medicare "Part B" eligibility file when a "systems error" dropped the 16,400 names from the list. Consequently, the Health Care Financing Administration, Medicare's federal governing body, sent letters to recipients stating that the dropped individuals had used Medicare services without paying for them and "owed the federal government money." HCFA subsequently deducted the amount owed --$136.50 -- from beneficiary checks. Upon finding the mistake, "mortified" officials vowed to mail reimbursement checks "as soon as possible." California SSA regional commissioner Linda McMahon noted that "These elderly and disabled beneficiaries are among the neediest of the needy," and asserted that "asking them to wait long for their benefits is unacceptable." Kepke, however, said Friday that the mistake "requires coordination of the state of California, the Medicare agency and Social Security." He added, "They are putting their heads together to get this fixed as quickly as possible." All of the recipients who received the reduced checks are In-Home Supportive Services enrolles, a program that provides low-income elderly and disabled residents with house cleaning, shopping and other personal needs (Leavenworth, 10/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.