MEDICARE ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COUNSELING PROGRAMS FOR 2005
SHIPS AWARDED $31.7 MILLION TO HELP INFORM BENEFICIARIES ABOUT NEW DRUG COVERAGE
Today the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a 50 percent increase in funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). SHIPs are a key partner in Medicare’s Education and Outreach effort to insure that everyone with Medicare knows they are eligible for prescription drug coverage, that they will have a choice of at least two plans, and that there will be extra assistance for those in need.
This significant increase in funding, a total of $31.7 million, is a sign of confidence in the 12 year partnership between CMS and the SHIP network. It is also clear evidence of CMS’ strong belief and commitment to one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families, especially as they need to learn and make decisions about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage that becomes available next year.
In the first ever forum of all the 54 SHIP State Directors and the entire network of over 1,200 local SHIP program coordinators and volunteers, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said, “We have a tremendous challenge before us in educating the 41 million Medicare beneficiaries. You and the 10,000 counselors you mobilize in the SHIP network are key partners. Together we must insure that America ’s Medicare beneficiaries and people with disabilities are fully informed of the new prescription drug coverage and are able to make confident decisions on what is best for them. This mission requires your best efforts”
The significant increase in funding brings increased performance requirements for all the SHIPs across the U.S. and the territories. It also brings increased commitment from CMS to continually educate the SHIP network and provide accessible and on-going training to insure that the network is fully capable of utilizing all of CMS’ online and other support tools.
“The SHIPs’ role in helping seniors and people with disabilities is crucial, not only for the new prescription drug benefit but also helping people get the best care for their own needs in our increasingly sophisticated health care system, “ said CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. “The SHIPs are the key foot soldiers in providing one-on-one assistance for Medicare beneficiaries to help them get the best health care.”
While general enrollment for the new Medicare drug coverage begins on November 15 of this year, education and awareness counseling is important right now. The community-based SHIPs will help drive increased awareness through the coming months to enable people with Medicare to make informed decisions about their health care and prescription drug coverage needs. CMS expects the network to provide personalized counseling to as many as 5 million beneficiaries as part of their effort.
In his discussion with the SHIP directors, Secretary Leavitt said, "While you, the SHIPs, are key in this effort, you will not be alone. This is a government wide effort, HHS (including CMS and the Administration on Aging), the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies, and the entire national and local aging network will be devoted to insuring that all people with Medicare are aware of the new prescription drug coverage and able to make a confident decision on what is best for them when they can begin enrolling on November 15.