CMS BEGINS TO AWARD $21.1 MILLION IN GRANTS TO SHIPS
DRUG CARD INFORMATION CONFERENCE TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO SHIP STAFF
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today began to award $21.1 million in grants to states in support of local programs to help Medicare beneficiaries understand and take advantage of new benefits and programs in Medicare. Representatives from many of these programs are in Washington, D.C. for the first national training on the Medicare-Approved Discount Drug Card Program, the first new program for beneficiaries established in the Medicare Modernization Act.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and some territories will receive additional funds, representing an overall 69 percent increase above the fiscal year 2003 total, reflecting the increased emphasis on one-on-one advice and counseling for Medicare beneficiaries.
"Helping Medicare beneficiaries understand their new choices and benefits is a key goal, and the counselors in the local SHIPS will play a critical role in reaching that goal," said CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, Ph.D., M.D. “We are doing all we can to help give them the tools to answer beneficiaries’ questions about the new Medicare law.”
SHIPs are local organizations funded by CMS through State Units on Aging or state insurance departments in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that provide individual help to seniors and people with disabilities with health insurance questions and problems. More than 12,000 volunteers and paid staff in nearly 1,200 local programs use their knowledge of Medicare and other local insurance programs and services to provide in-depth assistance to people with Medicare. The awards are based on the number of Medicare beneficiaries in a state in proportion to the total nationwide and to the total population of the state, and the percentage of beneficiaries residing in rural areas.
Representatives from the SHIPs and other organizations that work with Medicare beneficiaries, will be in Washington, D.C. April 7 and 8 to learn more about the new Medicare law, and more specifically, the Medicare-approved drug discount card program.
“In addition to providing information about the new discount drug card program, the conference is designed to give individuals who work with seniors and people with disabilities opportunities to learn about the $600 credit available to people with low incomes,” said Dr. McClellan. “Conference participants will also receive tools to share with other members of their organizations and beneficiaries and their family members.”
CMS expects attendees to include partners and stakeholders who serve people with Medicare and Medicaid, especially those who can benefit the most from the card. Participants will include national Medicare partner organizations as well as State Medicaid Directors, State Pharmacy Assistance Program Directors, State educators, SHIP Directors, Directors of the Offices on Aging, drug card sponsors, CMS central and regional office staff, and others.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Medicare-Approved Discount Drug Card Conference is being held April 7th and 8th at the Capitol Hill Hyatt in Washington, D.C. and is open to the media. Many local participants may be available for telephone interviews. Conference agenda and additional information is available at http://www.afyainc.com/medicare.htm.