Thursday, May 04, 2006

Medicare Part (D)isaster, Incompetently Administered, Misleading Poor Seniors

GAO called Medicare operators 500 times and got wrong information much of the time. For example, 59% of callers who asked, what is the most appropriate and least expensive plan for me, were given the wrong plan. The GAO found the government's own website so confusing that seniors just gave up on it.

The best part? Medicare KNEW the GAO was calling them to test their operators, but Medicare operators still gave out incorrect information. How bad would it have been if the calls had been completely random and Medicare hadn't been alerted?

WaPo: Study Finds Medicare Operators Often Give Bad Information

With less than two weeks remaining for seniors to sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, an independent review has found that Medicare's telephone operators frequently give callers false or incomplete information, reviving calls by Democrats to extend the May 15 deadline.

The report released yesterday also found that Medicare's written promotional materials used too much technical jargon, that call waiting times lasted from a few minutes to almost an hour, and the government Web site was so confusing that some people gave up before completing the process.

Posing as seniors or individuals helping a senior, investigators for the Government Accountability Office placed 500 calls to 1-800-MEDICARE and found that about one-third resulted in faulty information or none at all.

The quality of service varied widely. On a question relating to which seniors qualified for discounted plans, customer service representatives gave correct information 90 percent of the time.

When asked which drug plans were most appropriate and least expensive for an individual, however, the accuracy rate fell to 41 percent. Often, Medicare representatives incorrectly told callers they required personal data such as a Social Security number. In fact, they can provide general information but would be able to give more sophisticated guidance with the personal data.


"Because of inaccurate or incomprehensible information, seniors haven't been given a fair shake," said Michigan Rep. John D. Dingell, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Seniors can't make good choices if they can't get good information. And these problems confirm that this privatized prescription drug plan is inherently too complicated."

Medicare chief Mark B. McClellan defended the program in an appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday.

Although the 7,500 customer service representatives did not know which callers were from the GAO, the administration was alerted to the investigation, said Leslie Aronovitz, director of the division responsible for the report. In addition, when Medicare operators initially gave an inaccurate answer, GAO investigators "bent over backwards to try to give them as much leeway as we could," she said.


Angrysenior said...

As a senior trying to make an objective decision about Part D, I am appalled that ALL the public blather considers only WHICH plan to choose, not WHETHER ANY make sense! I found that Part D would cost me over $550 a year MORE than buying the drugs myself (Diovan and Lipitor). And since my premium alone would be only $319 a year (the BIG cost is the co-pay) it's a no-brainer: THE PENALTY IS PEANUTS COMPARED TO MY SAVINGS!! You can see my analysis at
Of course, by NOT taking it, I'm one of those anti-American rebels who's not helping to finance this pathetic fiasco!!

Anonymous said...

Yea, and Obama has done SO MUCH BETTER.... dope.