Processing Error Threatens Seniors Medicare Coverage

Seniors May Need To Pay Back Medicare Premiums

Kaiser Health News reported yesterday that a processing error at the Social Security Administration is causing major problems for about 250,000 Medicare Consumers.

According to the article, the error occurred in January. The problem is that the premiums for some Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Medicare Part C and D) were not withheld from the Social Security Checks. The Social Security Administration (SSA) said that the plans (insurance companies) will be sending bills to these customers for payment. It is important that if you receive a bill you do not ignore it. The SSA states in their notice that customers utilizing these plans must pay back the owed premiums and plans may resubmit the check withdrawal requests.

A Crisis of Confusion

The Kaiser article suggests that some seniors are mistaking these notices as scam attempts.

But they shouldn?t toss the letter in the garbage. It?s not a scam or a mistake.

– Kaiser Health News

But what happens if Seniors do not realize this is not a scam? And what happens if they do not repay the missed premiums? The answer is simple, they are in jeopardy of losing their coverage. In fact, according to the Kaiser article, this is already happening.

Two seniors in Louisiana lost drug coverage after their policies were canceled because of the SSA error, said the state?s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) director, Vicki Dufrene. One woman had had the same drug plan since 2013, and it dropped her at the end of April. She was without coverage for the entire month of May until earlier this week, when Dufrene was able to get her retroactively re-enrolled.

But what is Congress doing about the situation? Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote a letter to both the SSA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In the letter, he requested to know when and how the error was discovered. He also requested what is being done to correct the error. In addition, he wants to know how they are helping senior citizens impacted by the error. So far, there has been no answer.

So What Should I Do?

While Congress has not received some of the answers they are looking for, there is information available. The FAQ from Medicare.gov explains that plans must give a grace period to customers. The grace period must last as long as the delay in payments occurred. Medicare says that you should contact your plan immediately to set up payments for the error. Do not ignore the notices that come in the mail. You can also contact Medicare at 1-800-633-2048.