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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Misleading' health mailers stir Florida seniors



The Obama administration this week warned Medicare Advantage providers against "misleading" mailers that have whipped up fear among seniors, including those in Florida, about the health care reform. Sen. Bill Nelson's office has been flooded with calls from people worried about their benefits. And Nelson this week filed an amendment to protect against cuts to Medicare Advantage.

"Leading health reform proposals being considered in Washington, D.C., this summer include billions in Medicare Advantage funding cuts, as well as spending reductions to original Medicare and Medicaid," reads a letter sent by Humana. "While these programs need to be made more efficient, if the proposed funding cut levels become law, millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare Advantage health plans so valuable." It urged seniors to call lawmakers.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has demanded Humana cease the effort (it has) saying the information is "misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations and guidance for the MA and Part D programs and other federal law, including HIPAA."

Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has proposed cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending by about $500 billion over 10 years but says that will lead to more efficiency, not reduced benefits. That could make for a difficult path for Nelson's amendment, which attempts to grandfather in people who already get additional perks under Medicare Advantage.

The private-run Advantage plans are attractive because federal subsidies are higher than the traditional coverage. Seniors in Florida use it to get hearing and vision care, even health club memberships.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:19pm]


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