Congress Furious Over Medicare Advantage Authorization Abuses

Imagine that. Congress members have started to notice that insurance companies are abusing seniors who have Medicare Advantage plans, especially with denial of authorizations that wouldn’t happen with traditional Medicare. Remember, you still have time to change your coverage. Via Politico:

“It was stunning how many times senators on both sides of the aisle kept linking constituent problems with denying authorizations for care,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in an interview, referring to a bevy of complaints from colleagues during a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing.

[…] “CMS is very attuned to what is going on on the Hill,” Sean Creighton, managing director of policy for consulting firm Avalere Health, said of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He added that next year will likely bring “more scrutiny by the Hill and CMS on this, and there will be more reporting requirements for the plans and actions the plans are required to take to lessen the burden on providers and patients.”

Legislation requiring insurers to more quickly approve requests for routine care passed unanimously in the House in 2022, but stalled in the Senate over cost concerns. The Improving Seniors’ Timely Access to Care Act, which mandates insurers quickly approve requests for routine care and respond within 24 hours to any urgent request, was reintroduced this year in the House and passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee this summer as part of a larger health care package.

Yep, Members are being flooded with complaints from their constituents:

It “has turned into a process of basically just stopping people from getting care,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), leader of the House Progressive Caucus.

Jayapal was one of more than three dozen House Democrats who told CMS this month of “a concerning rise in prior authorizations,” accused health insurers of prioritizing “profits over people” and asked for “a robust method of enforcement to rein in this behavior.”

Unlike traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans can employ prior authorization and restrict beneficiaries to certain doctors within their network. Those are among the incentives private insurers have to participate in the program and enrollment has doubled during the last decade.

But Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said some hospitals in his state won’t take Medicare Advantage plans any more. “We can’t do it because we can’t afford the constant chasing from all the denials,” he said.

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