Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Regulators denounce “scare tactics” by insurers re: health care reform

Insurance regulators are denouncing recent “scare tactics” by insurers apparently trying to alarm senior citizens about the effect of federal health-insurance reform on Medicare.

“State insurance regulators take scare tactics directed at senior citizens very seriously,” the National Association for Insurance Commissioners recently wrote to Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus and ranking member Charles Grassley.

In the letter, insurance commissioners Roger A. Sevigny (NH) and Sandy Praeger (Kansas) urge Congress to restore state insurance regulatory authority over Medicare private plans. They cite “deplorable marketing and sales abuses…we have witnessed firsthand” in the Medicare Advantage marketplace.

The letter comes after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) criticized a letter sent by insurer Humana, Inc. to enrollees. In it, the insurer says that “millions of seniors and disabled individuals could lose many…important benefits and services” under federal health care reform. The letter urges enrollees to contact Congress.

CMS called the information “misleading and confusing” and said it may violate federal Medicare regulations. It ordered Humana to stop sending such letters.

Sen. Baucus also blasted the move, calling the letter “wholly unacceptable” and saying that his bill “strengthens Medicare and does not cut benefits covered under the Medicare program.”

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