MEDICARE: State, HCFA to Boost Enrollment in Discount Programs
California officials and HCFA are teaming up to boost enrollment in two discount programs that pay for part or all Medicare out- of-pocket expenses, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program pays for all of a qualified beneficiary's Part A, or hospital deductibles, and the patient's monthly premium for the optional Medicare Part B plan, which covers doctors visits and other non- hospital medical expenses; the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) program covers a qualified beneficiary's Part B premium. Under the programs, the state covers premiums for Part B coverage, saving Medicare enrollees almost $550 per year. The programs currently aid more than 2.7 million Medicare beneficiaries, and according to a 1998 Families USA study, an additional 3.3 million to 3.9 million more seniors may be eligible for the discounts. In addition, recent estimates suggest that as few as half of all Medicare patients who meet maximum requirements participate in QMB or SLMB, prompting HCFA, in coordination with the Department of Health Services, to launch a statewide education program to increase California enrollees by 4-6%. The Sacramento-based Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program also is aiding the effort, training counselors to determine seniors' eligibility for either program (Fisher, 6/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.