CMS Agrees to Ensure Accessible Distribution of Medicare Information to Blind Beneficiaries

CMS Agrees to Ensure Accessible Distribution of Medicare Information to Blind Beneficiaries

At the end of April, the National Federation of the Blind and three blind individuals represented by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) and the law firms of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, and Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C. reached an agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that the federal agency will distribute information about Medicare in more accessible formats going forward. Options include large print, Braille, audio, and electronic formats. The settlement resolves a 2016 lawsuit that alleged CMS discriminated against blind and low-vision beneficiaries by failing to provide meaningful and equal access to Medicare information in accessible formats.

Under the agreement, CMS will:

  • Provide accessible, fillable forms for use by beneficiaries on Medicare.gov.
  • Issue “Best Practices on Accessibility” to Medicare Health and Drug Plans.
  • Extend the time in which a beneficiary must answer time-sensitive communications by the number of days it takes CMS to process the beneficiary’s request for information in an accessible format.
  • Develop a plan to promote the availability of accessible materials to Medicare beneficiaries.

Please help spread the word. If you know and/or work with Medicare beneficiaries or Medi-Cal and Medicare dual eligible beneficiaries with vision disabilities, you can help them exercise their rights by sharing with them how to get accessible materials on their Medicare benefits.

For more information, see DREDF’s press release and the settlement agreement.

Note: this article is a reprint of DREDF’s announcement on the agreement.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.