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Government Agency Must Overhaul Its Counseling and Education Efforts for People with Medicare, Consumer Service Organization Says
the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
“The current policy relies on an expensive and inadequate toll-free service—1-800-Medicare—to meet the demand for consumer advice that is fueled by a needlessly complicated array of private drug and health plan options,” said
“People with Medicare need significantly more assistance from the federal government in order to receive the benefits to which they are entitled,” said Dr. Bruce Vladeck, chairman of the Medicare Rights Center Board of Directors and former administrator of CMS (then HCFA). “It’s long past time for CMS to refocus on its primary mission of serving consumers. Doing so will be neither very hard nor terribly expensive; CMS just has to decide that’s what it wants to do.”
In a proposal submitted to Governor Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s designee as Secretary of Health and Human Services, the
1. Congress and the Administration must standardize Medicare private health plans (also known as “Medicare Advantage” plans) and drug plan choices to allow people with Medicare to make
2. CMS must revise its organizational structure and create a new office that is attuned to and accountable for meeting the educational and counseling needs of people with Medicare;
3. CMS must harness the experience and resources of community and advocacy organizations, including State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), and better equip them to serve people with Medicare; and
4. CMS must move toward greater use of dynamic, interactive web-based education and counseling resources and reduce dependence on the 1-800-Medicare telephone hotline.
The report is available at www.medicarerights.org/pdf/Proposal-to-Restructure-Improve-Counseling-Edu.pdf.
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Medicare Rights Center is a national, not-for-profit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.