Is Humana just the tip of the iceberg?
Yesterday we reported on the campaign by health insurer Humana Inc. to enlist beneficiaries to lobby lawmakers against a key cost-saving measure in Sen. Max Baucus’s health-reform bill. Humana’s letters to its customers, urging them to contact their member of Congress, are currently being probed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which contracts with Humana, among other firms, to provide Medicare Advantage.
But last night, CMS suggested that Humana might not be the only provider to engage in the tactic.
In a press release, the agency announced:
Medicare today called on Medicare-contracted health insurance and prescription drug plans to suspend potentially misleading mailings to beneficiaries about health care and insurance reform. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently asked Humana, Inc. to end similar mailings. Humana has agreed to do so.
If Humana has already agreed to do so — and we detailed yesterday that the website they set up allowing beneficiaries, or anyone, to contact Congress has indeed now been disabled — then why the need to call on providers to suspend misleading mailings?
CMS also yesterday evening released the memo it sent to all Medicare Advantage providers, which says that the mailings “claim to convey legitimate Medicare program information about an individual’s specific benefits or other plan information but instead offer misleading and/or confusing opinion and conjecture by the plan about the effect of health care reform legislation on the MA program.”
The memo asks providers “to immediately discontinue all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your websites.”
We’ve contacted CMS for more information on whether other providers may also have potentially crossed the line in their communications with beneficiaries, and will keep you posted.