Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Precht
Director for Policy and Communications
202-544-5561

Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications
212-204-6214

May 8, 2008

Statement of Robert M. Hayes, President of the Medicare Rights Center, on Proposed Regulations Governing Medicare Private Health and Prescription Drug Plans

New York, NY - We are pleased that the Bush Administration recognizes that tough rules and stringent oversight are needed to stop Medicare private health plans from using predatory marketing tactics to enroll older Americans in plans that disrupt the health care they need. We are especially encouraged that the administration recognizes that it must rein in the exorbitant commissions that plans pay to agents. These commissions are fueling the marketing abuse.

Unfortunately, the proposed regulations are inadequate to address the problems we see every day. These regulations do nothing to prevent insurance companies from using high commissions and volume-based bonuses to encourage agents to enroll people with Medicare in substandard plans that provide inadequate financial protection, abysmal customer service and poor access to providers. The final regulations will need to be much tougher if it is to have the desired effect.

Part D and the Medicare Advantage program are structurally flawed. Even the Bush Administration, which has so zealously promoted the privatization of Medicare, recognizes that it must repeatedly reaffirm its instructions to these private, for-profit insurance companies to get them to play by the rules. People with Medicare have been hurt and will continue to be hurt by the abuses of these companies. There is a fundamental conflict between the insurers' mandate to maximize profits and the public purpose to provide humane and efficient health care to older and disabled Americans.

Medicare Rights Center (MRC) is the largest independent source of health care information and assistance in the United States for people with Medicare. Founded in 1989, MRC helps older adults and people with disabilities get good, affordable health care.