Talking to the Medicare Bossby Denise Early on Nov. 16, 2010, under Health
On Friday I participated in a conference call with the Head of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) and I got to ask a question as well as offer some advice about the Medicare.gov Plan Finder.
First, I pointed out to the top administrator of Medicare, Dr. Don Berwick, and his assistants on the call that Medicare.gov Plan Finder is not working properly. I told them the largest Medicare Advantage plans in Pima and Maricopa counties are not showing up on the Plan Finder list. One of the assistants said they’d look into that problem – and I will be watching to see if they indeed put some techie on this project as quickly as possible.
Second, I informed Dr. Berwick and his assistants that they were using the wrong terminology for the period of November 15 to December 31. They kept calling this period the “Open Enrollment Period”. This label was even used in their press release announcing the conference call. I informed them that the proper term for November 15 – December 31 is the “Annual Election Period” and that the “Open Enrollment Period” (OEP) referred to January through March. I pointed out that the OEP has been terminated and does not exist for 2012.
I asked Dr. Berwick and his assistants about the cancellation of OEP and what will happen when a person decides on February 1st that he doesn’t like his Medicare Advantage plan. His only choice will be to dis-enroll from the Advantage plan and go back to Medicare. He can enroll in a stand-alone Part D. But I asked the question, “Can that person get a Medicare Supplement with guaranteed issue?” Well, I have a feeling these bureaucrats had no idea what I was talking about. One of the assistants said, “Of course a person can get a Medicare Supplement”. So I clarified, “But what if that 75-year old has health issues that might cause him to be refused/declined by the Medicare Supplement company?” The assistant mumbled a bit and said he’d get back to me on that.
Part of the assistant’s answer about the cancellation of OEP (January – March) was that “consumer advocates” pushed for this change because of what they saw as “unnecessary marketing” by Advantage plans to seniors. The “consumer advocates” think seniors need only 45 days (with two holidays in this period) to choose their Medicare coverage for the entire next year.
I was fortunate to talk to the top administrator of Medicare and his assistants as they only took about ten questions at the end of the conference call. The Denver Post and Wall Street Journal were on the call and their questions were more about politics than process. I will be watching and waiting to see if the Plan Finder gets fixed and if I hear back on my question about seniors getting Medicare Supplements during OEP-D (disenroll).
I did hear back about my Medicare Supplement guaranteed issue question. As I thought would be the case, a person who drops their Medicare Advantage plan in February is not guaranteed a Medicare Supplement. If a person answers “yes” to any questions on a Medicare Supplement application he will be turned down. So before anybody thinks about dis-enrolling from their Medicare Advantage, plan they need to be sure they can get Medicare Supplement.
As of today, Tuesday, the Plan Finder was still broken.