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WASHINGTON - Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, commended the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for its improvements to 1-800-Medicare in response to complaints by Wisconsin seniors. Earlier this month, John Hendrick from the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) testified at an Aging Committee hearing held on 1-800-Medicare. The toll-free number is operated by CMS as a customer service line in order to provide 24-hour assistance and information to Medicare beneficiaries on claims, billing, enrollment, and disenrollment.  In his testimony, Hendrick detailed problems that Wisconsin seniors have had with 1-800-Medicare, including long wait times, inaccurate information and guidance, and technical issues with the numeric prompts.
"Customer service is a critical component of navigating the Medicare system, which is why
1-800-MEDICARE receives tens of millions of calls each year," said Chairman Kohl. "I applaud CMS for taking seriously their job of advising and informing beneficiaries, and especially appreciate that they took the initiative to follow-up with our witness on behalf of Wisconsin seniors."
"I had barely gotten off the flight back from DC when I had a voicemail from CMS wanting to address the issues raised at the hearing. Some of the proposed solutions sound promising," said Hendrick, Project Attorney for CWAG's Elder Financial Empowerment Project.
As a result of his appearance before the Aging Committee, two CMS officials contacted Hendrick, detailing their recent efforts with regard to each issue highlighted in his testimony. For instance, CMS has rewritten scripts and retrained their customer service representatives (CSR) on certain topics, updated their call center systems so that CSRs can see if a beneficiary has recently called in and pick up where they left off, and minimizing the number of transfers made between CSRs during a phone call. They also laid out specific actions CWAG can take in the event that Wisconsin seniors run into the same problems again, letting Hendrick know what kind of information to report and to whom it should be directed at CMS.
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