There are plenty of problems with the Medicare prescription drug program, which we spend an entire chapter in Nudge laying out for readers. One of the poster children for user-unfriendliness is the prescription drug comparison tool. Another criticism is aimed at the confusing materials mailed to seniors informing them about their choices. There may now be a reason for the confusion. Eighty five percent of marketing materials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) didn’t meet federal guidelines, according to the Health and Human Services Inspector General.
Some of the health insurance companies involved in the plan did quite nicely for themselves thanks to the new subsidies, but they might deserve a bit of sympathy too considering the 179-page behemoth they have to wade through just to make a few ads.
To make matters worse, the Inspector General says the some of the guidelines in the marketing book don’t jive with HHS’ own guidelines. In one example (that HHS says is now fixed – thanks to the IG), the marketing guidebook doesn’t have required information on the subsidy available to low income beneficiaries. In another, guidelines require that marketing materials include operating hours and TTY/TDD numbers where all phone numbers are present, but the model documents provided to insurers omit them. We should expect insurers, like humans, to follow shortcuts when available, so it is to be expected that errors like this were made.