MEDICARE+CHOICE: Federal Education Effort Underway
Today's Washington Post takes a look at the federal government's ambitious attempt "to translate into lucid, individualized terms a set of intricate changes to Medicare that are beginning to take effect." In a massive effort to give beneficiaries the information they need to cope with Medicare+Choice, the federal government has established a "$45 million hotline" to "field questions using government-written scripts." The program -- which is being test marketed in five states -- is demonstrating that "it can be difficult to anticipate how [the] campaign will be received -- and, more fundamentally, how the private health plans on which Medicare+Choice hinges will respond." The hotline, which opened Nov. 2, is averaging only 250 calls per day, far short of the expected 20,000. Furthermore, most of the calls are about routine Medicare questions, not Medicare+Choice. Some seniors have found the information contained in the booklets, distributed as part of the information campaign, confusing because Medicare HMOs have withdrawn from the area. And while the hotline was established primarily to help seniors understand the new choices they would face, in reality many seniors don't have many of the options listed in the brochure because no company is offering MSAs and only one is offering a provider-sponsored plan. Health Care Financing Administration head Nancy-Ann Min DeParle said, "It hasn't worked out quite the way we thought in that there aren't some of those choices out there" (Goldstein, 12/14).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.