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Letter mistakenly says 12K seniors would lose Medicare

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — State and federal agencies are retracting an erroneous letter that was sent last month to about 12,000 low-income Michigan seniors saying their Medicare Part B benefits were being eliminated.

The Social Security Administration sent letters last month to the group of seniors saying they were no longer eligible for a $151-a-month Medicare Part B subsidy through the state of Michigan. Medicare Part B covers durable medical equipment, ambulance services, mental health care and services meant to prevent illnesses for recipients age 65 and older.

The letter was automatically generated due to a “technical system error” at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, agency spokesman Bob Wheaton said Wednesday.

“It was an error,” Wheaton said. “They’re not losing their coverage for receiving assistance for their premiums for Medicare Part B.”

The letters were sent to low-income senior citizens with household earnings below 135 percent of the federal poverty level — $16,038 a year for an individual or $21,627 for a couple.

The letters said recipients were no longer eligible as of May 1, but Wheaton said there was no interruption in monthly benefits.

“No one has actually experienced any reduction in their Medicare Part B benefits,” he said. “We caught the error before any checks went out.”

The Social Security Administration will be mailing the 12,000 affected seniors new letters assuring them their benefits won’t be reduced and that the previous letter was sent in error, Wheaton said.

“It was our error, not the Social Security Administration’s error,” he said. “We understand that created confusion, concern and we apologize that people were impacted by that.”

The department initially pegged the number of affected individuals at 15,000, but corrected the number on Thursday

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood