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Proposed Medicare Regulations Threaten to End Millions of Free Meals Offered to Seniors During Education Seminars
Date:7/10/2008

'Talking and Eating is an American Tradition -- What's the Problem?'

Seniors Ask

WASHINGTON, July 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A common occurrence in thousands of American towns and cities is the sight of seniors attending a seminar about Medicare Advantage-Part D, asking questions, and enjoying a free meal -- a sight that could come to an end if some federal regulators get their way.

A proposed prohibition on free meals is part of a wide-ranging set of rules the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is considering in response to concerns that some marketing techniques to promote Medicare Advantage have crossed the line -- yet no one is aware of complaints or allegations involving free lunches during the seminars.

"Sitting down, having a meal, and discussing things is just an American tradition. I'm actually insulted that someone would think a little $15 lunch would be enough to sway my decision about whether or not to sign-up for a Medicare Advantage plan," Jean Lentini of Florida.

"We believe this proposed rule stopping meals is overly restrictive and will deter Medicare beneficiaries from learning about various plans and enrolling in the Part D plan that best suits them," says Tom Panaggio, CEO, Response Mail Express (RME) of Tampa, Fla., which has filed a formal letter of complaint with CMS. RME estimates seniors will lose 250 million free meals and marketing costs will eventually increase if the prohibition takes effect.

Such seminars occur at restaurants and approximately 15 to 30 beneficiaries attend each one. The purpose of having the seminars in a restaurant is to provide a neutral and relaxed environment that has easy access for seniors. During the seminar, an agent from the Part D plan presents information and is available to answer any questions or address other concerns.

Restaurant owners, health plans and insurance agents also are being encouraged to alert CMS to their concerns about the proposed change. Supporters of the free meals note that such food offerings already occur and would continue for those who present seminars on other important topics such as mortgages, reverse mortgages, financial services, and many other products.

Since its inception, some 9 million seniors, about a fifth of all Medicare beneficiaries, have signed up for Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage was passed by Congress and signed by the President into law as one possible solution to the impending financial shortfall for the program.


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SOURCE Response Mail Express
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