WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- Facing down the threat of greater regulation, health insurers unveiled a plan to curb shady marketing practices to seniors at a congressional hearing Wednesday, but their efforts may come too late.
"Get on top of this and get on top of it fast," said Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., at a Senate Special Committee on Aging investigation of unscrupulous sales tactics being used by insurers in the Medicare Advantage program.
At the hearing, senior advocates, state insurance commissioners and several members of Congress called for the elimination of limits on state oversight of the plans.
People with Medicare are being locked into costly and ineffective health and drug plans with no oversight from the Bush Administration, while at the same time states are barred from protecting them," said Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a New York City based beneficiary assistance group.
Brock Slabach, a board member of the National Rural Health Association, told lawmakers that seniors enrolling in a plan often don't know that physicians are not required by Medicare to accept the plans.
"When beneficiaries actually need the services is when they discover the gaps," he said.