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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Medicare Choice program, focusing on: (1) the extent to which managed care organizations' (MCO) member literature provides beneficiaries with accurate and useful plan information; and (2) whether the Health Care Financing Administration's (HCFA) review process ensures that beneficiaries can rely on MCOs' member literature to make informed enrollment decisions.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Health Care Financing Administration 1. In order to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed health care decisions and reduce the administrative burden on agency staff and MCOs, the Administrator, HCFA, should require MCOs to produce one standard, FEHBP-like document for each plan that completely describes plan benefit coverage and limitations, and require MCOs to distribute this document during sales presentations and upon request.
Closed - Implemented
HCFA has developed and implemented a standardized Summary of Benefits that managed care organizations are required to use. The Summary of Benefits includes a standardized one-page "Important Beneficiary Information" page, a matrix of benefits using standard categories, language, and order of benefits. The plans use a template of possible sentences to produce their Summary.
Health Care Financing Administration 2. In order to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed health care decisions and reduce the administrative burden on agency staff and MCOs, the Administrator, HCFA, should fully implement HCFA's new contract form for describing plans' benefit coverage, the plan benefit package, for the 2001 contract submissions to facilitate the collection of comparable benefit information and help ensure full disclosure of plans' benefits.
Closed - Implemented
For 2001, HCFA has implemented the Plan Benefit Package (PBP), which replaces the benefit Information File. The PBP includes much more information about each plan's benefit package including costs. Also, several sections of the Summary of Benefits have been integrated into the PBP and will be generated as output reports.
Health Care Financing Administration 3. In order to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed health care decisions and reduce the administrative burden on agency staff and MCOs, the Administrator, HCFA, should develop standard forms for appeals and enrollment.
Closed - Implemented
In January 2002, CMS released two standardized appeals notices, one on denial of coverage and the other on denial of payment. CMS has drafts for two additional appeals notices, the practitioner notice and the case file forwarded for review notice. Both still need to be tested and should be available in 2003. CMS has explored standardizing enrollment forms, but decided instead to produce a model form that M+COs may adopt. CMS has also issued requirements for enrollment forms, including specific data elements that must be included if the model form is not used.
Health Care Financing Administration 4. In order to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed health care decisions and reduce the administrative burden on agency staff and MCOs, the Administrator, HCFA, should take steps to ensure consistent application of the agency's marketing material review policy.
Closed - Implemented
To help ensure that M+COs' marketing materials conform to M+C requirements, CMS has released updated National Marketing Guidelines as Chapter 3 in the new Medicare Managed Care Manual. CMS has begun to conduct Medicare Managed Care Manual training with M+CO and CMS regional office staff. CMS also offered an optional checklist to M+COs that they could follow in completing their Evidence of Coverage (EOC) for 2002. If an M+CO submitted the checklist with its EOC, CMS regional staff used it in their review of the M+CO's marketing material and member literature. CMS has also increased uniformity in marketing materials by standardizing the summary of benefits and by offering model materials for the EOC, enrollment and disenrollment notices, and the annual notice of change. CMS continues to enhance its automated tracking system for marketing materials. CMS regional office managers can use this system to track marketing reviews in their regions and generate reports on the reasons for disapprovals.

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