Medicare handles more than 100,000 complaints each year, so you can take some solace in knowing that you aren’t alone if you’re unhappy with an aspect of the federal government’s health care program. If solace isn’t enough, though, you may be wondering about the best way to voice your displeasure.
First, you’ll need to determine that your complaint is actually a complaint and not an appeal. Complaints involve the methods and practices by which your Medicare plan or health provider is giving you care. Appeals, on the other hand, are actions that you may take if you disagree with a coverage or payment decision made by your Medicare plan or its administrators.
Medicare’s blog separates complaints into categories. These categories include complaints about:
- hospitals or providers
- your health or drug plan
- the quality of your care
- your dialysis or kidney transplant care
- durable medical equipment (DME)
Complaints about a doctor, hospital, or provider often overlap with complaints about the quality of care. For example, you may feel that you were discharged from the hospital too soon, or that you were denied treatment after you condition changed. In rarer cases, you may feel that you were given improper medical advice relating to unnecessary or inappropriate surgery. Common complaints include drug errors, incomplete discharge instructions, and the like.
Obtain the complaint guidelines for your specific plan
Before you file your Medicare complaint, you might want to familiarize yourself with the specific rules that your health plan has regarding complaints. If you don’t have a copy of these rules handy, you should contact your plan and ask them about complaint guidelines. If you’ve filed your complaint according to your plan’s rules and you feel as if your concerns haven’t been satisfactorily addressed, you can call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227 and speak with a representative. In addition to consulting with the rep about your complaint, you should ask them to forward it to the Medicare Ombudsman’s office. This office exists to field complaints and inquiries and resolve them to the beneficiary’s satisfaction.
Filing your complaint
Be sure you have basic information on hand at the time of filing your complaint. You’ll need personal info such as your name and address as well as your Medicare card and health plan card. You can use Medicare’s Blue Button initiative to download all of your pertinent information to a file on your local computer.
In addition to the 1-800 number listed above, there’s another way to contact Medicare regarding an appeal or a complaint. The federal government has contracted with two large regional complaint handlers, who you may contact based on the state in which the service you are complaining about was performed.
- A company called Livanta handles complaints from nine northeastern states and eight Western states, as well as complaints from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- A company called KePro handles all the rest of the states and Washington, D.C.
While contact information for these companies is hard to find on Medicare’s official website, The United Hospital Fund has published a complete list of contact phone numbers by state.