MEDICARE ANNOUNCES ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COUNSELING PROGRAMS FOR 2009
$6.3 MILLION AWARDED TO STATE-BASED INFORMATION PROGRAMS FOR PEOPLE WITH MEDICARE
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that an additional $6.3 million has been distributed to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) to help beneficiaries get more information about their Medicare health and prescription drug plan choices.
These final disbursements for 2009 – part of $49.6 million in total grants to States for their SHIP operations – fund programs that use community-based networks to provide Medicare beneficiaries with local, personalized assistance on a wide variety of Medicare and health insurance topics.
“We know beneficiaries want personalized assistance as they make decisions about their health care options,” said Jonathan Blum, acting director of the Center for Drug and Health Plan Choices and director of the Center for Medicare Management. “In addition to 1-800-MEDICARE operations and its customer service representatives, SHIPs are one of the most important resources available to Medicare beneficiaries.”
In grant year 2008, SHIPs reached approximately 5.2 million beneficiaries, caregivers and advocates. The SHIPs reported that they are addressing more complex cases as well as trying to meet the needs of diverse populations.
“In addition to answering beneficiaries’ questions about Medicare, this funding should further the SHIPs’ efforts to reach those people who are most likely eligible for extra help paying the costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage, and assist them in applying for extra help,” said Charlene Frizzera, acting CMS administrator. “These funds will give SHIPs additional resources for the upcoming open enrollment period.”
CMS distributed $35.8 million in April of this year for basic grant awards. This $6.3 million includes $4.8 million in supplemental funding to the basic grant funding appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2009 and $1.5 million for performance-based awards to SHIPs. Combined with $7.5 million in funding made available to SHIPs under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008, grants to States for SHIPs in FY2009 totaled $49.6 million.
Performance Awards are provided to SHIPs that demonstrate achievement in providing services to Medicare beneficiaries. Eligibility for a performance award is based on timely submission of data for all required reporting periods into the SHIP National Performance Reporting (NPR) system for the period July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009. SHIPs are also evaluated based on performance measures data. Performance awards were started in 2006.
CMS expects the SHIPs to use the increased 2009 funding to conduct community-based programs targeted at reaching more beneficiaries who are unable to access other sources of information such as the CMS online tools at www.medicare.gov.
In addition to continuing their outreach and assistance to current and newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers, the SHIPs are expected to make a special effort to reach out to beneficiaries with limited incomes who may be eligible for the “extra help” subsidy for Medicare prescription drug coverage. To accomplish this, funds may be used to recruit new volunteers to provide SHIP counseling, and provide them with training.
CMS will continue to support the SHIPs in 54 States and territories with training and technical assistance. This will help to ensure that the community networks remain fully capable of accessing and using CMS’ 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), regional office resources, as well as the online tools at www.medicare.gov and www.SHIPtalk.org to provide assistance to beneficiaries.
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