Around 230,000 Medicare recipients have got checks which erroneously reimburse them for monthly premiums that they paid for prescription drug coverage this year.
The checks which amount to about $215 are almost sure to leave several beneficiaries confused. In addition these checks are accompanied by a letter that mistakenly informs them that the Social Security Administration would no longer be deducting monthly premiums for drug coverage from their Social Security check.
Medicare officials claim that they caught the glitch only after checks which totaled nearly $50 million were sent out last week. Following this they began to send a second letter on Tuesday which instructed the elderly and disabled not to cash the check, assuring them that their prescription drug coverage will continue.
Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said, "It's very important for people to know their coverage is continuing. There's no disruption at all."
On the whole, it has been estimated that about 5 million people pay their monthly premiums for drug coverage through the government withholding the money from their Social Security check.
McClellan has said that his agency will make sure that insurers continue to get payment for the beneficiaries caught up in the mistake. He also took the blame upon his agency for the error. The subsequent letter going out on Tuesday is said to contain an apology.
The error occurred while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services updated the Social Security Administration on the various changes in coverage that beneficiaries had requested.
McClellan however stressed that the checks will have to be returned by the beneficiaries. Besides this, beneficiaries must also be made aware that the government won't be able to start making monthly deductions again until October.
He reassured beneficiaries who face a money crunch that the agency would work within the fall as they had already cashed the check from the Social Security Administration or probably because they can't afford to have premiums from a few months deducted from one Social Security check.
McClellan said, "The amounts involved here are generally not large, but we want to make sure that as we account for these extra payments, we do it in a way that's not burdensome. There are a number of approaches we can take, including doing it overtime if necessary when it's not a trivial amount of money for the beneficiary."
Beneficiaries from all over the U.S. were affected by the glitch according to him.