MEDICARE ANNOUNCES SUPPLEMENTAL RURAL FUNDING FOR STATE HEALTH INSURANCE COUNSELING PROGRAMS FOR 2006
$500,000 ADDITIONAL FUNDING TO HELP RURAL BENEFICIARIES LEARN ABOUT AND ENROLL IN MEDICARE DRUG COVERAGE
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) will receive an additional $500,000 to help people with Medicare who reside in rural areas obtain drug coverage by May 15th when the 2006 enrollment period ends.
The funding also provides for counseling for the next annual open enrollment period, and to identify and enroll people in rural areas who might be eligible for the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage low income subsidy that provides additional savings to beneficiaries. This funding is in addition to nearly $925,000 included in the $29,269,885 in grants previously awarded to the SHIPs on April 1, to support rural beneficiaries.
CMS recognizes that local counseling services in rural or frontier areas are vital and involve additional challenges to the states. As a result, CMS is making special supplemental grant funds available to augment SHIPs ongoing efforts to build and support locally accessible counseling services in rural areas.
SHIPs use their knowledge about their communities to enlist other organizations, particularly those positioned in rural areas, such as the Grange, county extension services and similar local community organizations, to carry out educational and counseling activities that afford beneficiaries additional opportunities to learn about the Medicare program and receive enrollment assistance to obtain drug coverage.
SHIPs will use the funds distributed through this supplemental rural services grant to directly support local organizations that serve as local SHIP counseling locations, and to fund systems that connect beneficiaries to local counseling assistance, such as providing internet access to local counselors. SHIPs carry out these efforts in partnership with other public and private organizations involved in providing outreach and counseling, including enrollment assistance, for Medicare beneficiaries.
For the purposes of this grant, rural areas are defined as areas located outside of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). This award will be based on the number of beneficiaries residing in non-MSA areas relative to the total number of beneficiaries in each State.
Recognizing the importance of their assistance to beneficiaries, CMS has more than doubled funding to SHIPs since 2003. The funding level remains 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 Medicare beneficiaries, including rural beneficiaries, about the drug benefit and their plan options in the months ahead.
For more information about the low income subsidy, contact 1-800-772-1213 or www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp. For more information about the Medicare prescription drug plan, go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).