Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee are asking whether Centers for Medicare and Medicaid officials have similar problems overseeing the insurers in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program and in the Medicare fee-for-service program.
The committee convened a hearing today that was supposed to focus on CMS management of the Medicare drug program.
Committee members spent much of their time talking about the Medicare FFS program article that ran Monday on the front page of the New York Times.
The Times article quoted participants, CMS officials and state insurance regulators who criticized marketing of the Medicare FFS program, which gives Medicare beneficiaries the option of buying traditional fee-for-service health coverage from a private insurer.
Critics say the Medicare FFS, which is separate from the Medicare drug program, offers coverage that resembles traditional Medicare coverage but costs purchasers and the federal government substantially more.
Abby Block, the director of the Center for Beneficiary Choices at the CMS, said that the agency has “zero tolerance for ripping seniors off,” and a new program will require that seniors be called before their enrollment in a fee-for-service plan takes effect.
But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said it is not clear whether CMS proposals to remedy the problems by, for example, calling seniors as they enroll in Medicare FFS plans, will help.
“A lot of this seems to be after the fact,” Wyden said.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also expressed concerns about the Medicare FFS program.