Comment on Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Benefit Programs: Final Marketing Provisions (Parts III & IV)
Posted Apr 29 2010 12:00am
[Ed. Note: This post is a continuation of a post we published the other day regarding "modifications and additions to initial marketing regulations implementing The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 ("MMA"), which "established the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program (Part D) and made revisions to  provisions” of the Medicare Advantage Program.” The initial post, detailing the modifications, can be found here .]
By Michael Rabasca
The strongest argument against these final regulations is that they prevent eligible enrollees “from learning about their full range of healthcare options” and, thus, unduly hinder the market for Part C and Part D plans. ( Federal Register, Volume 73, No. 182 at p. 54214 ). In order for consumers to make informed healthcare decisions, they need to have ready access to information. Marketing is all about the strategic distribution of information, and placing restrictions on plan marketing activities limits the information available to potential enrollees. Thus, regulating the marketing activities of Part C and Part D plans could lead to consumer ignorance and severely limit the choices of Medicare eligible individuals.
These new rules significantly hinder the ability of potential Part C and Part D plan participants to both obtain plan information and enroll in plans. Many individuals who are eligible for Medicare are hospitalized or living in nursing homes where healthcare is delivered. Under these rules, Part C and Part D plans would be unable to make marketing presentations, distribute enrollments applications, or collect completed applications from these individuals. Unfortunately, these potential enrollees are often the people who would benefit the most from enrolling in these plans and these regulations severely limit their ability to do so.
I think that government oversight of Part C and Part D plans’ marketing activities provides vital protection to the individuals who are eligible to participate in these plans. I feel that Medicare participants are particularly vulnerable to questionable marketing practices, and these final regulations provide important modifications and additions and to CMS’s marketing regulatory scheme. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that these rules do enough to deter Part C and Part D plans from engaging in impermissible marketing activities. Although CMS may impose civil monetary penalties or marketing/ enrollment sanctions on plans that violate its marketing regulations, these penalties are merely discretionary. I agree with one commenter who suggested that CMS should mandate civil monetary penalties for plans that violate the marketing rules in order to ensure that violators are punished. ( Federal Register, Volume 73, No. 182 at p. 54211 ). Additionally, I feel that CMS should provide some sort of financial incentive for both individuals and competing plans who report marketing violations in order to increase the likelihood that violations are discovered and reported. These additional enforcement tools would help to ensure that the new final marketing regulations serve their purpose by effectively protecting individuals who are eligible to participate in Part C and Part D plans from inappropriate marketing tactics.