Blumenthal, Brown Introduce Legislation To Protect Seniors From Losing Their Doctors

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act, legislation that would protect Medicare Advantage (MA) beneficiaries from losing their providers in the middle of the year or without cause. Blumenthal is an original cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

“This measure vitally protects elderly and frail patients from losing doctors they know and trust,” Blumenthal said. “At a time when seniors are most vulnerable and fragile, the law should prevent insurers from exploiting them and their health providers. Our experience with United Healthcare Group – unconscionably dropping hundreds of doctors – provides powerful evidence for this stronger protection.”

“American seniors spend a lifetime working hard and contributing to our society,” Brown said. “In return, they deserve a strong Medicare program that protects their rights along with their health and wellbeing. Congress can ensure this by standing up for patients and passing the MA Participant Bill of Rights Act. This bill would protect patients by making sure Medicare Advantage plans do not remove providers without warning or during the middle of a plan year. It will also ensure that seniors are given information that will help them find new providers if needed.”

The Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act would do five main things:

  1. Prevent insurers from dropping providers from MA plans without cause during the middle of the year;
  2. Require insurers to finalize MA plan provider networks 60 days in advance of the annual enrollment period;
  3. Provide for increased notice to beneficiaries and providers to ensure beneficiaries have information like names and phone numbers of in-network providers they may access for continued care, customer services numbers to call with questions on network changes etc.;
  4. Increase transparency regarding the measures used by MA organizations to develop plan providers; and
  5. Request that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to look at and update its Medicare Compare tools and network adequacy process with input from relevant stakeholders, including insurers providing MA plans.

Last year, over 32,000 Connecticut Medicare Advantage participants were affected by UnitedHealth Group’s decision to drop providers from its MA plan network. The Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act has been endorsed by the Connecticut State Medical Society. U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) sponsors the House version of the bill.