Social Security Error Means 250,000 Seniors Could Lose Medicare

Two hundred-fifty thousand seniors can’t be wrong. But apparently they can be wronged.

A quarter of a million seniors who get Medicare may soon receive letters. They’ll be asked to cough up to five months’ worth of premiums they thought they’d previously paid for. And the letters are legitimate.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) failed to deduct premiums from some seniors. And this led to some people losing their health coverage.

Social Security is calling it “a processing error.” Their mistake was made back in January.

Some Medicare Plans Cancelled

Unlike some things we get in the mail, this is not a hoax. They will be actual charges that recipients are required by law to uphold.

And that might not be the worst of it. Some seniors will learn that their health plans were cancelled due to the mistake.

Neither Medicare nor the SSA has explained how the error happened.

The Department of Health and Human Services has said who may be affected. It will be those who enrolled in either a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. If those plans began January 1.

2 Louisiana Women Lose Coverage

Vicki Dufrene is the director of the Louisiana Senior Health Coverage Information Program.

She said she’s aware of two seniors in her state who lost their drug coverage. Because their plans were cancelled as an outcome of the error.

One was a woman who has had the same plan for six years. She went all of May without coverage until being re-enrolled by Dufrene.

Something similar happened with a senior in Ohio who was dropped due to the error.

Old IT System Blamed

Some seniors have not noticed their checks were higher than usual. Or if they did notice, they might have assumed it was a living increase.

Either way, they had no idea they’d be seeing repercussions for what was not deducted. And they did not realize their plans might get cancelled.

Clients of a number of groups will be affected. Including Humana (33,000 members), UnitedHealthcare (32,000) and Aetna (43,000).

A spokesperson for Humana blamed Medicare. He said their out-of-date technology systems created the failure.

Groups Must Show Leniency

A Medicare spokesperson said that groups must give seniors at least two months to uphold the expenditures.

Or they must give a payment plan to seniors who are unable to cough up several months’ of fees all at once.

Medicare officials say the problem has been resolved. And that automatic deductions will begin again either this month or in July.

A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and their services had this to say. “(We are) working with Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to reach out to impacted enrollees.” But the damage has been done.

Politicians Get Involved

Medicare policy holders could use some assistance from politicians regarding this situation.

Richard Neal is a Democratic representative from Massachusetts. He chairs the Ways and Means Committee.

Neal and two of his colleagues wrote a letter in late May to both Medicare and Social Security regarding this problem.

Here’s how part of the letter reads. “For vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities living on budgets, getting a charge for several months of unpaid… premiums could lead to significant and potentially ongoing hardship.”

As of this writing, they have not gotten a response from Medicare. The response from Social Security referred most of the questions to Medicare officials.

Confusion Could Set In

Lindsey Copeland is a federal policy director for the Medicare Rights Center. It’s an advocacy group.

She said one of her concerns about this problem is that some seniors may think the letter they get is a hoax. And toss it in the garbage.

Or they may believe that even if it isn’t a hoax, it could be a mistake. That’s because they’ve assumed their Medicare payments were being automatically deducted.

“If you think your premiums are being deducted automatically and then your plan tells you six months later that wasn’t the case, you may be confused,” she said.

Has It Happened to You?

I’d love to know if any of you have been affected by this mess.

Did you get a letter you weren’t expecting for backed Medicare premiums? Or were you told your drug plan was cancelled due to the error? Let us know about your experience in the comment section below.

Or feel free to simply chime in with your opinion on this matter.


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