Star Tribune:

Incorrect information about penalties for late enrollment in a Medicare D(isaster) plan is being circulated. Those   who do not enroll by May 15 will pay a higher penalty than mentioned by enrollment counselors.  In addition, the counselors are aware of the fact that they are giving out incorrect information, however,

they are required to offer only information approved by Medicare, and Medicare got it wrong — and still has it wrong on its website.

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If enrolled after January, one’s penalty will be 1 percent for each month of delay, calculated against this year’s national average monthly premium of $32.20. That would have resulted in a permanent penalty of $2.25 a month on top of their drug plan premiums.

However, that is incorrect, as the penalty is going to be base on next year’s average monthly premium, which will not be known until the fall. In addition, those amounts, premium and penalty will increase each year if the national average premium rises as expected.

Wayne Lindley, director of California’s state health insurance counseling program,

“Most of the Medicare issues have just been unanticipated call volume or computers that don’t talk to each other, but this is an actual error.”

Medicare beneficiaries in Minnesota are still getting incorrect information from the state’s federally designated Medicare counseling service.

Kelli Jo Greiner, a Medicare expert with the Minnesota Board on Aging,

“We’re stuck. Until we get official word, we have to tell people the information we get from [Medicare].”

 In addition, the counselors can’t tell callers the information they offer is wrong, and continue to give out incorrect information.

Peter Ashkenaz of CMS, admitted that the defintion of the penalty formula is incorrect, and does not know when it will be corrected.  On Friday, he decribed the real penalty formula, however he was unalbe to show it on the Medicare website.

However, in February, Medicare posted an incorrect explanation of how the penalty is caluclated.  Now it is the end of April, and Ashkenas does not know when the correct information would be posted.

“It’s hard to use details [to explain the penalty] when you don’t know what the premium will be next year.  So we tried to just use an example.”

QUESTION:  Is an incorrect example used in calculating the costs as the actual number is unknown, thus resulting in incorrect information being given out as fact?

TREA Senior Citizens League shares the concern that seniors may not get the help they need to make the complex decision to enroll in the new Medicare Part D drug plans and believes Congress should waive the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty for at least two years. Medicare beneficiaries should not be penalized for taking time to learn whether the coverage will be the best choice for their situation. The Medicare drug coverage was sold to seniors as being voluntary. Seniors should not feel bullied into enrollment by the threat of higher premiums.

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