Congress should crack down on Medicare Advantage health plans for seniors that sometimes deny patients vital medical care while overcharging the government billions of dollars every year, government watchdogs told a House panel Tuesday.
Witnesses sharply criticized the fast-growing health plans at a hearing held by the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations. They cited a slew of critical audits and other reports that described plans denying access to health care, particularly those with high rates of patients who were disenrolled in their last year of life while likely in poor health and in need of more services.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chair of the subcommittee, said seniors should not be “required to jump through numerous hoops” to gain access to health care.
The watchdogs also recommended imposing limits on home-based “health assessments,” arguing these visits can artificially inflate payments to plans without offering patients appropriate care. They also called for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, to revive a foundering audit program that is more than a decade behind in recouping billions in suspected overpayments to the health plans, which are run mostly by private insurance companies.
Related to denying treatment, Erin Bliss, a Department of Health and Human Services assistant inspector general, said one Medicare Advantage plan had refused a request for a computed tomography, or CT, scan that “was medically necessary to exclude a life-thr …