Volunteers Question New Contractor Responsible for Educating Medicare Beneficiaries About Drug Benefit
A newly appointed contractor to administer Sacramento's Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program has come under criticism from volunteers over decisions about how to structure the program most effectively, the Sacramento Bee reports. HICAP will provide impartial information about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to beneficiaries (Weaver Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 7/11).
The Area 4 Agency on Aging in Sacramento in May voted to terminate a contract with the Legal Center for the Elderly and Disabled to act as HICAP administrator. The legal center was in the third year of a four-year contract.
The counseling program, which has 60 trained volunteers in its Sacramento office, offers no-sot, one-on-one counseling to seniors in El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.
After complaints of low morale from volunteers and ongoing concerns about the stability of the legal center's finances and poor management, the agency decided that the problems were serious enough to warrant termination of the $400,000 contract.
Legal Services of Northern California, a not-for-profit group, assumed administrative duties at the counseling program for the contract's final year (California Healthline, 5/20).
According to the Bee, HICAP volunteers said their requests that program manager Pam Power and assistant manager John Gallapaga continue in their administrative duties during the transition "were ignored" by LSNC.
LSNC Deputy Director Bill Kennedy said the agency is still considering how the program should be structured.
One volunteer coordinator and one case manager have been brought over on short-term contracts to administer the program. Joan Parks, manager of Ombudsman Services of Northern California, has assumed Power's duties as program manager.
Area 4 Executive Director Deanna Lea said she is confident that HICAP will be able to answer seniors' questions about the drug benefit before enrollment begins Nov. 15 (Sacramento Bee, 7/11).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.