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Report Highlights Recent Medicare Developments

Armen Hareyan's picture

Several newspapers recentlyreported on developments in Medicare. Summaries appear below.

  • Drug benefit: An analysis released on Friday by Avalere Health found that all but two of the 10 most popular drug plans in Medicare Part D are reducing the number of drugs included in their formularies for 2008, CQ HealthBeat reports. When combined, the plans are reducing the number of drugs they cover by 26%, down from an average of 3,094 drugs in 2007 to 2,285 treatments in 2008. Consumer advocates are urging seniors to review their coverage and look for premium increases, among other changes (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 11/16).

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  • Improper payments: Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Friday praised CMS for reducing the amount of improper Medicare payments made in 2007, CQ HealthBeat reports. CMS in a report delivered to Congress on Friday said that the agency has reduced its overall improper payment rate to 3.9% in 2007, down from more than 10% in 2004. Medicare improperly paid about $10.8 billion from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2007, according to the analysis (CQ HealthBeat, 11/16).

  • Telephone customer service: Senate Special Committee on Aging ranking member Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) on Thursday told acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems that calls to the agency's telephone help line yielded answers that "were all over the board" and "often inaccurate," CongressDaily reports. Smith's office made 15 test calls to 1-800-MEDICARE and asked basic questions such as, "What is the difference between Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage?" and "What are the enrollment periods for these plans?" Smith said that the quickest connection to a representative was 14 minutes and that one staffer was on hold for 30 minutes. Weems called the errors and delays "unacceptable" and added that he would look into the issue (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/16).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.