Your Medicare Advantage health plan must follow strict rules for how they identify, track, resolve and report all appeals and grievances.
Who can file an Appeal?
An appeal may be filed by any of the following:
What is an Appeal?
An appeal is a type of complaint you make when you want a reconsideration of a decision (determination) that was made regarding a service, or the amount of payment your Medicare Advantage health plan pays or will pay for a service or the amount you must pay for a service.
When can an Appeal be filed?
You may file an appeal within sixty (60) calendar days of the date of the notice of the initial organization determination. For example, you may file an appeal for any of the following reasons:
Note: The sixty (60) day limit may be extended for good cause. Include in your written request the reason why you could not file within the sixty (60) day timeframe.
Where can an Appeal be filed?
An appeal may be filed in writing directly to us or contacting Customer Service at the telephone number (or the TTY number for the hearing impaired) listed in the Summary of Benefits 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., local time 7 days a week. You may also contact Customer Service and request the facsimile number for Appeals and Grievances.
Why file an Appeal?
You may use the appeal procedure when you want a reconsideration of a decision (organization determination) that was made regarding a service or the amount of payment your Medicare Advantage health plan paid for a service.
Fast Decisions/Expedited Appeals
You have the right to request and receive expedited decisions affecting your medical treatment in "Time-Sensitive" situations. A Time-Sensitive situation is a situation where waiting for a decision to be made within the timeframe of the standard decision-making process could seriously jeopardize:
If your Medicare Advantage health plan or your Primary Care Physician decides, based on medical criteria, that your situation is Time-Sensitive or if any physician calls or writes in support of your request for an expedited review, your Medicare Advantage health plan will issue a decision as expeditiously as possible, but no later than seventy-two (72) hours plus fourteen (14) calendar days, if an extention is taken, after receiving the request.
Who can file a Grievance?
A grievance may be filed by any of the following:
What is a Grievance?
A grievance is a type of complaint you make if you have a complaint or problem that does not involve payment or services by your Medicare Advantage health plan or a Contracting Medical Provider. For example, you would file a grievance: if you have a problem with things such as the quality of your care during a hospital stay; you feel you are being encouraged to leave your plan; waiting times on the phone, at a network pharmacy, in the waiting room, or in the exam room; waiting too long for prescriptions to be filled; the way your doctors, network pharmacists or others behave; not being able to reach someone by phone or obtain the information you need; or lack of cleanliness or the condition of the doctor's office.
When can a Grievance be filed?
You may file a grievance within sixty (60) calendar days of the date of the circumstance giving rise to the grievance. Note: The sixty (60) day limit may be extended for good cause. Include in your written request the reason why you could not file within the sixty (60) day timeframe.
You have the right to request an expedited grievance if you disagree with your Medicare Advantage health plan's decision to invoke an extension on your request for an organization determination or reconsideration, or your Medicare Advantage health plan's decision to process your expedited reconsideration request as a standard request. In such cases, your Medicare Advantage health plan will respond to your grievance within twenty-four (24) hours of receipt.
Where can a Grievance be filed?
A grievance may be filed in writing directly to us or contacting Customer Service at the telephone number (or the TTY number for the hearing impaired) listed in the Summary of Benefits 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., local time, 7 days a week. You may also contact Customer Service and request the facsimile number for Appeals and Grievances.
Why file a Grievance?
You are encouraged to use the grievance procedure when you have any type of complaint (other than an appeal) with your Medicare Advantage health plan or a Contracting Medical Provider, especially if such complaints result from misinformation, misunderstanding or lack of information.
Grievance, Coverage Determinations and Appeals
Filing a grievance (making a complaint) about your prescription coverage
A grievance is a complaint other than one that involves a request for a coverage determination. The complaint process is used for certain types of problems only. This includes problems related to quality of care, waiting times, and the customer service you receive. Grievances do not involve problems related to approving or paying for Medicare Part D drugs.
Some types of problems that might lead to filing a grievance include:
If you have any of these problems and want to make a complaint, it is called "filing a grievance."
You or someone you name may file a grievance. The person you name would be your "representative." You may name a relative, friend, lawyer, advocate, doctor or anyone else to act for you. Other persons may already be authorized by the Court or in accordance with State law to act for you.
If you want someone to act for you who is not already authorized by the Court or under State law, you and that person must sign and date a statement granting the person legal permission to be your representative. To learn how to name your representative, call UnitedHealthcare® Customer Service.
The process for making a complaint is different from the process for coverage decisions and appeals. If you have a complaint, you or your representative may call the phone number for Medicare Part D Grievances (for complaints about Medicare Part D drugs) listed on the back of your member ID card. We will try to resolve your complaint over the phone.
If you do not wish to call (or you called and were not satisfied), you can put your complaint in writing and send it to us.
If you are making a complaint because we denied your request for a "fast coverage decision" or a "fast appeal," we will automatically give you a "fast" complaint. If you have a "fast" complaint, it means we will give you an answer within 24 hours.
Please be sure to include the words "fast," "expedited" or "24-hour review" on your request.
Whether you call or write, you should contact Customer Service right away. The complaint must be made within 60 calendar days after you had the problem you want to complain about. If possible, we will answer you right away. If your health condition requires us to answer quickly, we will do that. Most complaints are answered in 30 calendar days.
If we need more information and the delay is in your best interest or if you ask for more time, we can take up to 14 more calendar days (44 calendar days total) to answer your complaint. If we do not agree with some or all of your complaint or don’t take responsibility for the problem you are complaining about, we will let you know. Our response will include our reasons for this answer. We must respond whether we agree with the complaint or not.
Click here (PDF 2.82 MB) to view the Evidence of Coverage in Chapter 9
The process for coverage decisions and making appeals deals with problems related to your benefits and coverage for prescription drugs, including problems related to payment. This is the process you use for issues such as whether a drug is covered or not and the way in which the drug is covered.
An initial coverage decision about your Part D drugs is called a “coverage determination.”, or simply put, a “coverage decision.” A coverage decision is a decision we make about your benefits and coverage or about the amount we will pay for your prescription drugs. We are making a coverage decision for you whenever we decide what is covered for you and how much we pay. In some cases we might decide a drug is not covered or is no longer covered by Medicare for you. If you disagree with this coverage decision, you can make an appeal.
For certain prescription drugs, special rules restrict how and when the plan covers them. A team of doctors and pharmacists developed these rules to help our members use drugs in the most effective ways. These special rules also help control overall drug costs, which keeps your drug coverage more affordable. Some covered drugs may have additional requirements or limits that help ensure safe, effective and affordable drug use. And some drugs may require a coverage determination to verify whether they are covered by the Medicare Part D plan. The coverage determination process allows you or your prescriber to request coverage of drugs with additional requirements or ask for exceptions to your benefits.
You can find out if your drug has any additional requirements or limits by looking for the abbreviations next to the drug names in the plan's drug list. To find the plan's drug list go to View plans and pricing and enter your ZIP code. Choose one of the available plans in your area and view the plan details. You’ll find the form you need in the Helpful Resources section.
Some drugs covered by the Medicare Part D plan have “limited access” at network pharmacies because:
Requirements and limits apply to retail and mail service. These may include:
Prior Authorization (PA)
The plan requires you or your doctor to get prior authorization for certain drugs. This means the plan needs more information from your doctor to make sure the drug is being used correctly for a medical condition covered by Medicare. If you don't get approval, the plan may not cover the drug.
Quantity Limits (QL)
The plan will cover only a certain amount of this drug for one copay or over a certain number of days. These limits may be in place to ensure safe and effective use of the drug. If your doctor prescribes more than this amount or thinks the limit is not right for your situation, you and your doctor can ask the plan to cover the additional quantity.
Step Therapy (ST)
There are effective, lower-cost drugs that treat the same medical condition as this drug. You may be required to try one or more of these other drugs before the plan will cover your drug. If you have already tried other drugs or your doctor thinks they are not right for you, you and your doctor can ask the plan to cover this drug.
Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D Coverage Determination (B/D)
Depending on how this drug is used, it may be covered by either Medicare Part B (doctor and outpatient health care) or Medicare Part D (prescription drugs). Your doctor may need to provide the plan with more information about how this drug will be used to make sure it's correctly covered by Medicare.
NOTE: If you do not get approval from the plan for a drug with a requirement or limit before using it, you may be responsible for paying the full cost of the drug.
IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE, YOU CAN ASK THE PLAN TO MAKE THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTIONS TO THE PLAN'S COVERAGE RULES
You can ask the plan to make an exception to the coverage rules. There are several types of exceptions that you can ask the plan to make.
Note: Tier exceptions are not available for drugs in the specialty tier.
Generally, the plan will only approve your request for an exception if the alternative drugs included in the plan’s formulary, the lower-tiered drug or additional utilization restrictions would not be as effective in treating your condition and/or would cause you to have adverse medical effects.
Call the UnitedHealthcare Customer Service number to request a coverage determination (coverage decision). When requesting a formulary or tiering exception, a statement from your doctor supporting your request is required. Usually, the coverage decision will be made within 72 hours after we receive the request or your doctor's supporting statement (if required).
You can request an expedited (fast) coverage decision if you or your doctor believe that your health could be seriously harmed by waiting up to 72 hours for a decision. If your request to expedite is granted, we must give you a decision no later than 24 hours after we receive your request or prescribing doctor's supporting statement.
If you are a continuing member in the plan, you may notice that a formulary medication which you are currently taking is either not on the 2014 formulary or its cost-sharing or coverage is limited in the upcoming year. For coverage and exception requests received by December 15, 2013 and approved, the plan will cover the drug as of January 1, 2014. For coverage requests started on or after December 16, 2013, normal timeframes for resolution apply: you will receive an answer within 24 hours for urgent requests and 72 hours for all other requests. If your request is still in process on January 1, 2014, you may receive a temporary, one-month supply of the drug for your current plan cost-sharing until your request is answered.
To initiate a coverage determination request, please contact UnitedHealthcare.
Have the following information ready when you call:
You may also request a coverage decision/exception by logging on to www.optumrx.com and submitting a request. If you are a new user with www.optumrx.com, you will need to register before you can access the Prior Authorization request tool. Once you have registered, you will find the Prior Authorization tool under the Health Tools Menu. Once your request has been submitted, we will attempt to contact your prescriber to get a supporting statement and/or additional clinical information needed to make a decision.
Download this form to request an exception:
To initiate a request, providers may contact UnitedHealthcare or fax to 1-800-527-0531 for Standard Prior Authorization or 1-800-853-3844 for Specialty Prior Authorization. The plan's decision on your exception request will be provided to you by telephone or mail. In addition, the initiator of the request will be notified by telephone or fax.
To inquire about the status of a coverage decision, contact UnitedHealthcare.
Click here to view the Evidence of Coverage in Chapter 9
Note: Existing plan members who have already completed the coverage determination process for their medications in 2013 may not be required to complete this process again.
What happens if we deny your request?
If we deny your request, we will send you a written reply explaining the reasons for denial. If an initial decision does not give you all that you requested, you have the right to appeal the decision. See How to appeal a decision about your prescription coverage.
How to appoint a representative to help you with a coverage determination or appeal.
The representative can be a permanent one, such as a Power of Attorney, or it can be someone you name to help you only during the coverage determination case. Download the representative form.
Both you and the person you have named as an authorized representative must sign the representative form, unless your representative is a lawyer. In that case, only your signature is needed. This statement must be sent to UnitedHealthcare, PO Box 6106, M/S CA 124-0197, Cypress CA 90630-9948. Or you can fax it to the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Plans – AOR at 1-800-527-0531. If your prescribing doctor calls on your behalf, no representative form is required.
If we make a coverage decision and you are not satisfied with this decision, you can “appeal” the decision. An appeal is a formal way of asking us to review and change a coverage decision we have made.
When you make an appeal, we review the coverage decision we have made to check to see if we were following all of the rules properly. Your appeal is handled by different reviewers than those who made the original unfavorable decision. When we have completed the review we give you our decision.
How to appeal a decision about your prescription coverage
Appeal Level 1 - You may ask us to review an adverse coverage decision we’ve issued to you, even if only part of our decision is not what you requested. An appeal to the plan about a Medicare Part D drug is also called a plan "redetermination."
Appeal Level 2 – If we reviewed your appeal at “Appeal Level 1” and did not decide in your favor, you have the right to appeal to the Independent Review Entity (IRE).
When we receive your request to review the adverse coverage determination, we give the request to people at our organization not involved in making the initial determination. This helps ensure that we give your request a fresh look.
To file an appeal:
To inquire about the status of an appeal, contact UnitedHealthcare.
Who may file your appeal of the coverage determination?
If you are appealing a coverage decision about a Medicare Part D drug, you, your authorized representative, or a prescriber (or his and her office staff) may file a standard appeal request or a fast appeal request.
How soon must you file your appeal?
You must file the appeal request within 60 calendar days from the date included on the notice of our initial determination. We may give you more time if you have a good reason for missing the deadline.
How soon will we decide on your appeal?
For a standard decision regarding reimbursement for a Medicare Part D drug you have paid for and received and for standard appeal review requests for drugs you have not yet received:
We will give you our decision within 7 calendar days of receiving the appeal request. If we do not give you our decision within 7 calendar days, your request will automatically go to Appeal Level 2 (Independent Review Entity).
For a fast decision about a Medicare Part D drug that you have not yet received.
We will give you our decision within 72 hours after receiving the appeal request. If we do not give you our decision within 72 hours, your request will automatically go to Appeal Level 2.
Next steps if the plan says "no"
If you asked for Medicare Part D drugs or payment for Medicare Part D drugs and we did not rule completely in your favor at Appeal Level 1, you may file an appeal with the Independent Review Entity (Appeal Level 2).
If you choose to appeal, you must send the appeal request to the Independent Review Entity (IRE). The decision you receive from the plan (Appeal Level 1) will tell you how to file the appeal, including who can file the appeal and how soon it must be filed. You must file your appeal within 60 days from the date on the letter you receive.
To obtain an aggregate number of the plan's grievances, appeals and exceptions please contact UnitedHealthcare.
The following information about your Medicare Part D Drug Benefit is available upon request:
Quality assurance policies and procedures
The Utilization Management/Quality Assurance (UM/QA) program is designed to help ensure safe and appropriate use of prescription drugs covered under Medicare Part D. This program focuses on reducing adverse drug events and drug interactions, optimizing medication utilization, and providing incentives to reduce costs when medically appropriate. UnitedHealthcare offers the UM/QA program at no additional cost to its members and their providers.
The UM/QA program incorporates utilization management tools to encourage appropriate and cost-effective use of Medicare Part D prescription drugs. These tools include, but are not limited to: prior authorization, clinical edits, quantity limits and step therapy.
As part of the UM/QA program, all prescriptions are screened by drug utilization review systems developed to detect and address the following clinical issues:
In addition, retrospective drug utilization reviews identify inappropriate or medically unnecessary care. We perform ongoing, periodic review of claims data to evaluate prescribing patterns and drug utilization that may suggest potentially inappropriate use.