Washington Post Examines Educational Campaign for Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
The Washington Post on Monday examined a CMS educational campaign for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. According to the Post, the federal government plans to spend $300 million over three years on the campaign. The campaign will focus on grass-roots outreach by 10,000 local not-for-profit groups that will provide instruction and educational materials to Medicare beneficiaries at church meetings, nursing homes, Meals on Wheels visits and meeting of civic organizations.
The campaign also will include traditional advertisements on the radio and television, in specialty magazines and in local newspapers. The campaign, which the public relations firm Ketchum will manage under $25 million contract, also includes informational inserts in Parade magazine. In addition, more than 9,000 Medicare operators on Thursday will begin to answer telephone calls about the prescription drug benefit, and CMS will post prescription drug plan information on the Medicare Web site.
"Our commitment here at CMS is to make sure that people with Medicare who want to get personalized counseling, personalized assistance will have the resources to do it," Kathleen Harrington, a CMS manager who oversees the campaign, said. She added, "We are really trying every technique we can. ...Our motto is we're going to reach the people with Medicare where they live, where they work, where they play and where they pray."
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said, "Seniors want to hear about this over and over again. Because to them it is a very significant change in their life."
However, Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said, "Almost all of the administration's efforts, and the drug companies' efforts, are promotional. Unless they throw more resources into one-on-one counseling, people with Medicare will be burned big time" (Lee, Washington Post, 10/10).