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Class-Action Suit Targets Medicare

Times Staff Writer

A class-action lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday alleges that Medicare has failed to properly enroll millions of low-income seniors and disabled beneficiaries into its new prescription drug plan.

The suit, filed in Oakland on behalf of three women and two senior-advocacy groups, also alleges that some low-income beneficiaries eligible for a subsidy were not properly notified about it or not receiving it. As a result of the problems, many seniors and others who qualify for the program are going without critical medication, said lead attorney Jeanne Finberg of the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

“The system simply isn’t working,” Finberg said. “Clients are falling through the cracks.”

More than 6 million low-income senior and disabled beneficiaries, who had received drug coverage under Medicaid, the government health program for the poor, were required to be automatically enrolled into Medicare Part D plans Jan. 1. But that transfer was plagued by errors because databases to verify eligibility weren’t ready or contained conflicting information.

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Though he declined to comment directly on the suit, Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said the agency has resolved the enrollment problems it faced at the beginning of the year.

The lawsuit seeks a federal judge to issue a permanent injunction forcing Medicare to resolve the enrollment problems, inform drug plans that low-income beneficiaries are eligible for subsidies, and “take any and all other steps to ensure that plaintiffs and class members receive the full benefits of the Part D program.”


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