CMS to states: Do not auto enroll drug beneficiaries

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Centers for Medicare & Medicaid officials have notified states they should not automatically enroll low-income Medicare beneficiaries into specific prescription plans when the Part D benefit takes effect this January.

Deputy Administrator Leslie Norwalk said in a memo to state officials that by forcing Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in a particular plan, states could be violating of federal fraud and abuse laws and would be jeopardizing beneficiaries' freedom of choice.

Specifically, the agency memo said that automatic enrollment illegally discriminates against certain drug plans and could interfere with competition among providers.

CMS said that states are permitted to help Medicare beneficiaries evaluate the benefits of specific prescription drug plans, but should not "eliminate choice for the low-income subsidy population by steering them into one preferred prescription drug plan."