State Medicare Counseling Efforts Affected by Disbursement of Federal Funds
Officials for Sacramento-area divisions of the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program say that efforts to provide information about the new Medicare law to seniors are being hampered because they are not scheduled to receive $184,000 in federal funding until August or September, the Sacramento Bee reports. California's HICAP is part of a nationwide network of not-for-profit counseling service providers for seniors that speaks to community groups, offers one-on-one counseling and provides enrollment forms and benefit information about Medicare. According to Sacramento-area officials, CMS has not sent any of the $1 billion it received to implement the new Medicare law to front-line counselors, the Bee reports. Pam Power, program manager for Sacramento's HICAP, said, "We need help," adding that federal officials "want us to target the low-income, underserved people and yet [they are] not giving us the tools to do that." Tatiana Fassieux, program manager for HICAP in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Plumas and Tehama counties, said that she already has exceeded her photocopying budget by preparing Medicare materials to be mailed to beneficiaries and expects to exceed her postage budget soon. Robert Hayes, president of the consumer advocacy group Medicare Rights Center, said that federal officials are spending $21 million on television advertisements rather than more direct services, the Bee reports. "They're leaving consumers high and dry across the country. ... Consumers don't need political ads. They need counseling," Hayes added. Jeff Flick, CMS regional administrator in San Francisco, said that he would look into accelerating delivery of the federal funds, adding that the HICAP counselors "do a superb job" (Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 6/1).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.