MEDICARE ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COUNSELING PROGRAMS FOR 2006
$30 MILLION TO CONTINUE HELPING BENEFICIARIES LEARN ABOUT AND ENROLL IN MEDICARE DRUG COVERAGE
Today the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) will receive $30 million to help people with Medicare until May 15, when the enrollment period for 2006 ends and during the next annual enrollment period beginning in November for drug coverage that will begin in January 2007.
“As the May 15th deadline for enrollment in Medicare drug coverage approaches, we are seeing more and more people who have not enrolled looking into what the coverage means for them,” said CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. “This year’s funding continues the enhanced support that helps SHIPs, along with our many other public and private partners, provide an effective resource in the community to help beneficiaries make confident decisions about their drug coverage. The thousands of SHIP volunteers around the country are helping many of our beneficiaries take advantage of the drug coverage and all of the other benefits and protections of the Medicare program.”
SHIPs are one of the key partners in Medicare’s education and outreach efforts, which have contributed to over 27 million Americans receiving drug coverage in plans that offer prescription drug coverage that best suits their needs. SHIP volunteers have assisted Medicare beneficiaries by offering personalized face-to-face counseling concerning the drug benefit and advice on how to significantly lower their prescription drug costs.
Over the past year, each SHIP has demonstrated unique methods and strategies to reach beneficiaries and their families where they live about new prescription drug coverage. Across the nation, SHIPs have hosted and participated in nearly 36,000 events in the last twelve months, more than double the previous year's 14,500 events. More than 4.2 million beneficiaries have received information and assistance from SHIP staff and volunteers about Medicare drug coverage. SHIPs, as they have been doing for years, continue to provide information and assistance about other traditional Medicare benefits. These vigorous efforts have contributed to over 27 million Medicare beneficiaries having prescription drug coverage.
“This year’s grant awards reaffirm our confidence in the partnership we have with all of the SHIPs and our commitment to support them at unprecedented levels,” said Dr. McClellan. “It is also clear evidence of our strong belief and commitment to a more personalized Medicare program that reaches our beneficiaries locally and proactively.”
With the 2006 funding award, SHIPs are expected to continue to achieve high levels of measurable accomplishments in their efforts to support beneficiaries in their local communities. CMS will continue to provide additional training to ensure that the network is fully capable of accessing and using all of CMS’ online and other support tools.
“Because the general enrollment for the new Medicare drug coverage ends May 15th of this year, education and awareness counseling is important right now,” said Dr. McClellan. “We truly appreciate the work of the SHIPs to further increase awareness through the coming weeks so people with Medicare can make informed, time critical decisions about their health care and prescription drug coverage needs.”
SHIP Grants are calculated in two parts: The initial grant is distributed as a fixed award of $75,000 ($25,000 to Guam and the Virgin Islands ) to each of the applicants. The second portion is a variable sum based on the percentage of nationwide Medicare beneficiaries who live in the state, the proportion of the state's Medicare beneficiaries to the total state population, and the proportion of the state's Medicare beneficiary population that live in rural areas.
CMS has more than doubled funding to SHIPs since 2003, recognizing the importance of SHIP assistance to beneficiaries. In 2004, CMS provided more than $21 million and increased that to more than $31 million in 2005. The funding level will remain high, even after the initial enrollment period for prescription drug coverage ends, to ensure that SHIP counselors will continue to play an important role in educating beneficiaries about the drug benefit and their plan options in the months ahead.
In conjunction with the efforts of SHIPs in providing personalized counseling, this year CMS also expanded and enhanced the 1-800-MEDICARE helpline. In addition, CMS Regional Offices continue to work extensively with thousands of community-based organizations and coalitions to provide information and enrollment assistance support to many beneficiaries. Through joint efforts of CMS and the Administration on Aging (AoA), the Aging Network has also enlisted the active support of 10,000 aging services community provider organizations in beneficiary education and enrollment activities.