MEDICARE: State May Lose Funds For Special Program
Because California has not yet distributed any benefits from a federal program to help poor elderly pay their Medicare premiums, the state "could face a potential loss of almost $16 million in federal funds earmarked for the program," the Los Angeles Times reports. Under a federal law that went into effect January 1, the federal government will pay Medicare Part B premiums for beneficiaries earning between 120% and 135% of the federal poverty level. Ken August, a spokesperson for the California Department of Health Services, said, "The program is not yet operational. It has been slow getting started because staff is dealing with other issues," including the "implementation of welfare reform." August said that eligible recipients "will be enrolled retroactively." However, if the money "is not disbursed" by September 30, the Health Care Financing Administration said, the funds "will revert to the Medicare trust fund." All funding for the program comes from the federal government.
Never Heard Of It
Although an estimated 99,000 state residents are eligible for the program, there "appears to be little awareness of its existence," the Times reports. Herbert Semmel, a staff attorney with the LA-based Senior Citizens Law Center, said, "Nobody knows about it, and there is no outreach by the state. If you go and apply for the program, all they can do is take down your name" (Rosenblatt, 3/5).