Fevruary 22, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton

MORRISON CALLS ON MEDICARE CHIEF TO ESTABLISH CONSUMER PROTECTION MEASURES IN FLAWED MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROGRAM


      Urges McClellan to Provide Accountability to Protect Montana 's Seniors
      Helena, Mont., Feb. 22, 2006 - Responding to complaints from Montana seniors and health-care providers about the new flawed Medicare prescription drug program, State Auditor John Morrison urged Medicare Chief Mark McClellan to act swiftly to make the program work for Montana. Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) was in Montana at the invitation of U.S. Senator Max Baucus to participate in town hall meetings about the new federal program.
      "We have to fix this confusing, complicated system now because Montana seniors are suffering," said Morrison.
      The new Medicare provisions give CMS jurisdiction over these insurance products which had previously been regulated by state Insurance Commissioners. This decision has interfered with Morrison's ability to assist many of the consumers, providers, and others that call looking for help. Calls continue to flood into the office in large part because Montana seniors either cannot reach CMS or wait hours to speak with a live person.
      In 2003, Congress added the new prescription drug benefit for those on Medicare. Since the program's inception, the Medicare Part D implementation process has been fraught with problems.
      In his letter to McClellan, Morrison writes:
      "The Montana State Auditor's Office could not assist a gentleman who suffers from cluster headaches. He couldn't obtain the only prescription that controls his headaches. His Part D Plan, United Healthcare Insurance Company, denied both of his appeals. He contacted us and we did all we could to help him. The insurer wrote to us telling us that this office does not have jurisdiction. The Department of Insurance must be able to help these Montanans as we do with every other line of insurance. I call on you to make changes in the program to facilitate a plan that helps Montana beneficiaries to obtain better health outcomes."
      To address these issues, Morrison proposes the designation of a Montana Consumer Ombudsman, improved communication from Part D insurers and limitation on both formulary changes and price increases. He proposes further that monies promised for the program reach their intended recipients. "Here in Montana, we know what works best," said Morrison. "We need to fix this broken system so we can focus on providing care to Montana's seniors."
      Morrison applauded Senator Baucus' willingness to invite McClellan to hear directly from those suffering the frustrations of the ineffective program. "Working together, we can solve these problems and move towards lower costs, increased access and improved health care for all Montanans," said Morrison.