The CMS said that it has lifted marketing restrictions in place since this summer for Humana, UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee and Sterling Life Insurance Co., which offer private fee-for-service plans under the Medicare Advantage program. Last month, the agency said that it had lifted restrictions for Coventry Health Care, Universal American Financial Corp. and WellCare Health Plans.
Taken together, those seven plans represent 90% of the 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in private fee-for-service, or PFFS, plans.
The move comes just months after lawmakers heard testimony of unscrupulous sales and marketing practices meant to lure seniors into the more lucrative PFFS plans. Sales agents were caught removing seniors from traditional Medicare without seniors knowledge, signing the elderly up for plans they could not afford or generally doling out misleading information to beef up enrollment.
The CMS said that it had met with each of the organizations and determined that they were compliant with conditions previously set out by the agency.
At least one member of Congress is skeptical. To date, Ive seldom seen CMS respond to private fee-for-service plans marketing abuses as they should, with civil monetary penalties or expulsion from Medicare, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said in a written statement. But talk is cheap, and I look forward to action when PFFS plans are again caught misleading Medicare beneficiaries. -- by Matthew DoBias
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