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Smith Calls on Administration to Solve Medicare Withholding Issues
September 25th, 2006 - Washington, DC - In response to the latest in a series of Medicare premium withholding problems, Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and member of the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating why several thousand beneficiaries’ Part C premiums have been erroneously set to $0.
"The ongoing data exchange problems between SSA and CMS are unacceptable,” said Senator Smith. “Seniors should not be bearing the burden of the Administration’s recurring technical maladies. I fear that this series of Medicare premium glitches only serves to further seniors’ skepticism about the Part D program. SSA and CMS must quickly determine the precise scope of the errors and develop an action plan for correcting the problem.”
Earlier this month, Senator Smith expressed his concerns to Dr. Mark McClellan, Administrator, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Commissioner JoAnne Barnhart of the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding the numerous Part D premium issues that have affected beneficiaries. Additional glitches have now caused thousands of beneficiaries to have their Medicare Part C premiums erroneously set to $0.
Concerned about whether beneficiaries are being provided useful and timely information about the recent Part C and Part D premium glitches, Senator Smith examined the performance of 1-800-Medicare in providing general beneficiary information on both issues. Of the numerous phone calls made, not one resulted in a customer service representative who was able to provide any information about the Part C problem.
Senator Smith also noted that the average wait time per call was 15 minutes – which Smith said, “raises serious concerns about the capacity of CMS call centers as we approach the upcoming Part D enrollment period.”