Medicare carrier call centers, mandated by the CMS in 2001, so far aren't making it significantly easier for providers to comply with billing regulations. In a study by the Government Accountability Office, Medicare call centers gave healthcare providers incorrect or incomplete answers to policy questions in 96% of cases. Between September 2003 and June 2004, GAO researchers placed 300 calls to 34 carriers' call centers. Of the 300 questions posed, customer service representatives responded correctly and completely to 12, or 4%, the GAO said in its report. Most of the questions involved the proper way to bill Medicare for services. To improve service, the GAO recommended that the CMS routinely screen calls and route complex inquiries to expert staff; develop easily understandable policy information for customer service representatives; and monitor carrier call centers to assess their performance. Read the report. -- by Jeff Tieman
Good answers hard to find at Medicare call centers
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