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U.S.: Insurance Co.'s Claims on Reform "Misleading"

5192102Medicare officials are warning the insurance company Humana that it may be breaking federal regulations by sending letters to its beneficiaries that falsely claim seniors would lose benefits in the Medicare Advantage program because of Democrats' health care reforms.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter (PDF) to Humana, Inc. on Friday instructing the company to immediately end all such mailings to beneficiaries and to remove any related materials from its Web site. The CMS began an investigation into Humana's mailings at the urging of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is writing the health care legislation under attack.

"CMS is concerned that, among other things, this information is misleading and confusing to beneficiaries, represents information to beneficiaries as official communications about the Medicare Advantage program, and is potentially contrary to federal regulations," the letter to Humana said.

According to the CMS, Human sent its beneficiaries a mailer claiming that current health care reform legislation affecting Medicare could hurt "millions of seniors and disabled individuals [who] could lose many of the important benefits and services [emphasis in original document] that make Medicare advantage health plans so valuable." The mailer urges enrollees to contact their congressional representatives to protest the proposed legislative changes.

Baucus asked for an agency review of Humana's mailer last week.

"It is wholly unacceptable for insurance companies to mislead seniors regarding any subject – particularly on a subject as important to them, and to the nation, as health care reform," Baucus said in a statement today. "From lower prescription drug costs to free preventive care to better treatment for chronic conditions, seniors have so much to gain from health reform and I'm not going to let insurance company profits stand in the way of improving Medicare for seniors."

Humana is cooperating with the investigation and stopped the mailer earlier this month, a company spokesman told the Associated Press.

The proposed legislation would cut Medicare and Medicaid spending by about $500 billion over 10 years, but Baucus and President Obama contend that money will come from cutting waste and fraud currently bloating the programs -- not from cutting benefits.

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