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HHS releases $30M to help Medicare enrollees access their benefits

The Department of Health and Human Services has released $25 million in grants to help seniors, individuals with disabilities and their caregivers apply for special assistance through Medicare and an additional $5 million for a national resource center to support these efforts.

“Medicare is essential to our effort to provide high-quality healthcare to all Americans,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Many people could be eligible for extra help through Medicare and not even know it. We know that beneficiaries with the greatest needs are often the most difficult to reach.”

The grants, made possible by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), will provide support at the state and community levels for organizations involved in reaching and providing assistance to people likely to be eligible for the Low-Income Subsidy program (LIS), Medicare Savings Program (MSP) or Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program and in helping beneficiaries to apply for benefits. This initiative includes efforts to target rural areas of the country and Native American elders.

“HHS is working hard to reach people who are unaware, unsure or unable to apply for assistance for the benefits they deserve,” said Charlene Frizzera, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Through this collaboration ... state and community-based organizations will be able to work in partnership and make maximum use of these federal funds to help seniors and those with disabilities on Medicare.”

The MIPPA funding, which is jointly administered by HHS’ Administration on Aging (AoA) and CMS, is being awarded to state health insurance assistance programs, state agencies on aging, area agencies on aging, aging and disability resource centers, Native American tribal organizations and local communities.

“MIPPA presents a new opportunity to build on the successful partnership between AoA and CMS through the Medicare Part D outreach efforts, our Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs, ADRCs and the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information,” said Edwin L. Walker, Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging.  “This new effort allows us to team up again so that we can leverage federal, state and local resources to deliver health and long-term care services and information to those who need it most.”

The National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, administered by the National Council on Aging, will inform beneficiaries about benefits available under federal and state programs, locate older individuals with the greatest economic need and coordinate state and local efforts by providing a best practice clearinghouse, data collection, training and technical assistance.