washington, oct. 6-tens of thousands of medicare
recipients have been victims of deceptive sales tactics and had claims improperly denied by private insurers that run the system's huge new drug benefit program and offer other private insurance options encouraged by the bush administration, a review of scores of federal audits has found.
paul vernon/associated press
michael o. leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, says the medicare drug benefit is saving people money.
the problems, described in 91 audit reports reviewed by the new york times, include the improper termination of coverage for people with h.i.v. and aids, huge backlogs of claims and complaints, and a failure to answer telephone calls from consumers, doctors and drugstores.
medicare officials have required insurance companies of all sizes to fix the violations by adopting "corrective action plans." since march, medicare has imposed fines of more than $770,000 on 11 companies for marketing violations and failure to provide timely notice to beneficiaries about changes in costs and benefits.
the companies include three of the largest participants in the medicare market, unitedhealth, humana and wellpoint.
the audits document widespread violations of patients' rights and consumer protection standards. some violations could directly affect the health of patients-for example, by delaying access to urgently needed medications.