Medicare Rx Help Line Is Less Than Helpful, GAO Says

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Seniors seeking information aboutthe Medicare drug discount card programby calling the government's specialnew toll-free "help line" are likely toget incorrect answers about one third ofthe time, according to the results of aninvestigation by the US GovernmentAccountability Office (GAO).

The GAO found that the "1-800-MEDICARE" help line provided accurateanswers to only 61% of the 420calls made as part of the investigationand gave incorrect information to 29%of the callers. The remaining calls werenot answered at all, or the callers weredisconnected.

The most troubling findings surfacedin response to GAO questionsabout the $600 annual subsidy thatgoes with the new Medicare drug discountcard for low-income individuals.Customer service representatives—typicallyoutside contractors workingfrom "scripts" containing prewrittenanswers—gave out incorrect informationto 55 of the 70 inquiries made aspart of the investigation.

The GAO criticized Medicare officialsfor failing to regularly test thescripts used by help-line personnel,and for providing inadequate trainingfor newly hired customer service representatives.

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.