The saga of Fox Insurance is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it shows that insurance companies, big and small, get in Dutch with federal regulators when they don’t give seniors their promised benefits. Last year, both WellPoint and Well Care, an aggressive seller of Medicare Advantage plans, had to stop selling them; CMS found that Well Care had been deficient in servicing enrollees. Eventually, the agency lifted the suspensions. But given the history of yo-yo compliance with rules and regulations, the media needs to keep a sharp eye on them even now.
Second, CMS seems to have changed its policy about announcing suspensions. Campaign Desk is pleased to see this new transparency. When WellPoint got in trouble, the agency gave the story to selected reporters. A short while later, when the agency cited WellCare, it didn’t widely promote its actions. Then we urged CMS to circulate its announcements far and wide, because news gathering staffs have shrunk and the story might be missed.
CMS spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said that Medicare beneficiaries “need to know they are not alone” when things go wrong with their insurance: “They need help and they need to know where to go.” Since the media have been AWOL on this one, here’s where they can call for assistance or to complain about shoddy marketing practices: 1-800-633-4227. Media, take note: This is news-you-can-use 101!