CMS Begins To Distribute $31.7 Million to States for Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Education Campaigns
CMS has begun distributing $31.7 million to help state programs educate Medicare beneficiaries about the new prescription drug benefit, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan announced on Monday, CQ HealthBeat reports. The funding will go to State Health Insurance Counseling Programs, or SHIPs, to inform beneficiaries about eligibility requirements and help them choose a prescription drug plan. The funding amount is 50% higher than last year's federal allocation to SHIPs, according to CQ HealthBeat.
SHIPs beginning next month will work with Area Agencies on Aging and the Social Security Administration to identify and enroll low-income beneficiaries in the program. The effort will include 60,000 local events around the United States. McClellan said CMS has signed a memorandum of understanding with the HHS Administration on Aging to identify resources that will be required by local aging agencies.
McClellan, speaking at a meeting of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said, "The SHIPs are the key foot soldiers in providing one-on-one assistance for Medicare beneficiaries to help them get the best health care." He added that SHIPs could counsel an estimated five million Medicare beneficiaries about the drug benefit, with the largest effort aimed at low-income beneficiaries.
CMS also is working with the National Governors Association to develop plans for transitioning drug coverage for beneficiaries who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, McClellan said (CQ HealthBeat , 4/11).
The New York Times on Tuesday examined the challenges facing Medicare beneficiaries as the enrollment process for the new drug benefit begins and what they will need to know to decide which plan is best for them.
The Times also includes a timeline of major events leading up to the January 2006 launch of coverage (Pear, New York Times, 4/12).
In related news, CMS in a new "scope of work" document has outlined its major goals for quality improvements in Medicare for the three years starting in August.
CMS on April 7 invited bids from Medical Quality Improvement Organizations to carry out the tasks. The agency will sign 53 contracts with QIOs to accomplish such goals as improving doctors' use of computer technology, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, improving hospitals' adoption of "highly effective" systems of care, expanding use of telemedicine by home health agencies and significantly reducing the number of bed sores in nursing home patients, CQ HealthBeat reports.
McClellan said, "The key factor that will lead to better health care over the next decade is the effective generation and use of information about the quality of health care services" (CQ HealthBeat , 4/11).