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Report: Few NY Seniors Saying “Ouch” Over Quality of Medicare Coverage

December 19, 2007

New York, NY - This year, only 300 out of the three million New Yorkers on Medicare have complained about the quality of their care. By comparison, around ten percent of commercial health plan members in New York file complaints against their insurers every year. Those are among the findings of a new report from Island Peer Review Organization (IPRO), a nonprofit organization that works directly with Medicare to improve the program for beneficiaries. IPRO's Dr. Clare Bradley suspects not enough New Yorkers are exercising their rights.

"If someone received the wrong medication, or if they went into the hospital for surgery and they had the wrong surgery; if they received a transfusion that was the wrong blood type."

Bradley says Medicare recipients who have experienced these types of problems, or have a question about the quality of their care, they can find help at yourhealthyourvoice.org. She adds more New Yorkers should know that it's okay to complain, because the system can't begin to correct mistakes if program administrators are unaware of them.

The healthcare system only gets things totally right about half the time, according to Ted Will, also with IPRO. He explains his group is reaching out to all New Yorkers who receive Medicare, to make sure they realize they have a right to complain.

"The overall number of complaints filed throughout New York State represents less than point 0.1 percent of the state's Medicare population. We think that's a very low number, and the goal of our campaign is to educate and inform Medicare beneficiaries about their right to file a 'quality of care' complaint."

Will says a special effort is being made to reach Asian, Latino and African-American New Yorkers who are often underserved when it comes to medical care. A toll-free help line (866-391-4682) also is available for quality-of-care questions.

Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NY