Senator Raises Concerns Over Drug Benefit Error
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday sent a letter to CMS Administrator Mark McClellan that raised concerns about a glitch that prompted the agency to send reimbursements erroneously to more than 231,000 Medicare beneficiaries for almost $50 million in prescription drug benefit premiums, the Washington Post reports.
According to McClellan, who announced the glitch on Tuesday, affected Medicare beneficiaries also received letters from the Social Security Administration that erroneously said the agency will no longer deduct their monthly prescription drug benefit premiums from their Social Security checks.
CMS this week sent those Medicare beneficiaries a second letter, signed by agency chief operating officer John Dyer to inform them of the glitch and that they must return the erroneous reimbursements to the federal government. According to the Post, the letter from Dyer does not provide specific details for how the money should be returned.
"We will let you know soon about that process," the letter states, adding, "Again, you do not need to do anything other than set that money aside."
In his letter, Grassley writes that CMS should recover the erroneous reimbursements, which average $215 each, in small, "manageable" increments over "as long a period as possible." Grassley adds that some Medicare beneficiaries "may not realize the error that was made and may not have put the money aside" (Lee, Washington Post, 8/24).
McClellan said that CMS officials believe they can "smoothly" recover the erroneous reimbursements from Medicare beneficiaries. He added, "We're sorry about the inconvenience this error has caused. We want to make sure (beneficiaries know) their coverage is continuing" (Barfield Berry, Gannett/Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 8/24).
McClellan said that most of the Medicare beneficiaries affected by the glitch received the erroneous reimbursements by direct deposit, although some received checks. In addition, McClellan said that the glitch -- which occurred when CMS updated SSA about Medicare beneficiary information -- should prove inexpensive to correct "by government standards" (Stout, New York Times, 8/24).
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs officials have reported several problems with deductions of monthly Medicare prescription drug benefit premiums from Social Security checks, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report released on Thursday. 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.
According to the report, SHIP officials initially had advised Medicare beneficiaries to pay their monthly premiums through deductions from their Social Security checks but currently advise against the practice (Gannet/Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 8/24).