Baucus Calls for Increased Oversight of Marketing by Medicare Drug Plans
Finance Chairman asks CMS to increase oversight of drug benefit marketing following agency initiative on Medicare Advantage marketing oversight
Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is
calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make a
commitment to solid and robust oversight of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, as
the marketing season for Medicare plans began on October 1. Baucus promised
continued vigilance over CMS to ensure that it is fulfilling its responsibility to monitor all
Medicare plans that market directly to seniors to ensure that they meet the highest
standards of conduct. In a letter to Kerry Weems, the Acting Administrator of CMS,
Baucus also requested that the agency develop a strategy for increasing oversight of
marketing by prescription drug plans. Baucus is asking CMS to provide a plan similar to
the commitment made by the agency earlier this month to expand oversight and
enforcement of marketing activities by Medicare Advantage plans.
The text of the Senator’s letter follows here.
October 1, 2007
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable Kerry Weems
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Acting Administrator Weems:
Today is the beginning of the annual marketing season for Medicare Advantage plans and
Medicare prescription drug plan sponsors. Given the number and severity of problems
that occurred this year, it is critical that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(CMS) be a more proactive and authoritative regulator of Medicare insurance products.
As we have discussed, one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Finance Committee is
to ensure that CMS fulfills its duty to oversee and regulate the activities of insurers and
their agents who sell Medicare benefit packages directly to America’s seniors through the
Medicare Advantage and the Medicare prescription drug programs.
Recently, you publicly pledged to increase oversight and enforcement of the marketing
activities of Medicare Advantage plans, in particular, of private-fee-for-service Medicare
plans. I hope your pledge means CMS will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to
monitor marketing activities this season and that you will exercise the agency’s full
authority in dealing with misconduct. CMS should hold plan sponsors to the highest
standards. CMS should impose swift and significant consequences for improper behavior
by the plans and their brokers and agents. I am concerned, though, that you have not
made a similar commitment to oversight of the prescription drug benefit.
You and I agree that CMS must ensure that seniors who purchase a Medicare Advantage
or prescription drug plan fully understand the benefits they will receive. Differences in
benefits among Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans should be easier for
seniors to identify and comprehend. In addition, differences between Medicare
Advantage and the traditional Medicare program should always be clear to beneficiaries
before they enroll in any plan. Both Congress and CMS have more work to do in this
CMS has recently announced several new or expanded oversight, enforcement, outreach,
and education efforts; I asked for details about them when I wrote you on September 25,
2007. Let me be clear -- I will follow the implementation of these initiatives very
closely. A vigilant and watchful regulator is everyone’s best hope to protect the integrity
of the Medicare program, its 40 million-plus beneficiaries, and the taxpayers who fund it.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
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