Administration Broke Law in Failing to Mail Medicare Information

A federal court has ruled that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thomson violated federal law when he decided to omit health plan premium and benefit information in the annual Medicare & You mailing last year.

Older and disabled Americans often rely on Medicare and You to make an informed choice about their Medicare options during the open enrollment season.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy, representing the Gray Panthers Project Fund, the Medicare Rights Center, and other advocates for older and disabled Americans, sued the Secretary in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., charging that he violated Medicare law when he omitted the comparative health plan information. The Secretary had claimed that compliance with the law was both costly and not possible at so late a stage

In a ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., agreed that the Secretary had broken the law. Federal agencies, he said, 'like the rest of us, must obey the law--even if compliance is cumbersome, burdensome, or costly." In a preliminary ruling, Judge Kennedy had said he was astounded that the Secretary had the audacity to argue that compliance with the statutory mailing requirement was too expensive while simultaneously electing to spend $35 million on advertisements.

The Medicare and You 2003 mailing that is required to contain this information is planned for mid-October.