Help for Medicare beneficiaries expands

CMS will award grants so states can offer more personal counseling on prescription drugs and plan enrollment.

By Chris Silva — Posted Jan. 8, 2010

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will award new grant money to states in 2010 to support community outreach for Medicare beneficiaries.

A total of $45 million in grants will be available to the 54 State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, or SHIPs, CMS announced Dec. 16, 2009. States must apply by Feb. 16, and funds will be awarded in April.

The agency said the SHIP grants will help states provide more one-on-one counseling to assist beneficiaries with Medicare prescription drug and plan enrollment information.

"In these difficult times, states are seeking opportunities to expand senior advocacy funding and these grants enable them to better serve their senior populations, including those who are new to Medicare, and their families and caregivers," said Charlene Frizzera, acting CMS administrator.

In 2010, SHIPs are expected to focus more closely on Medicare beneficiaries who have limited incomes, CMS said.

Also on Dec. 16, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced the availability of $27 million to help older patients with chronic conditions improve their health.

The funds are made possible through the most recent economic stimulus package, which has provided up to $650 million to HHS for the "Communities Putting Prevention to Work" initiative that launched earlier last fall. The project promotes evidence-based prevention strategies in communities and states.

The initiative allows state aging and health departments to test six-week chronic disease self-management programs that cover topics such as healthy eating, exercise, managing fatigue and depression. Initial evaluations have indicated it improves participants' overall health and energy levels, resulting in savings to Medicare through fewer hospital stays, HHS said.

"This program will strengthen the health care that our seniors need and deserve by coordinating and integrating care in the community," said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health.

States must identify communities and organizations that will be involved at the local level. The deadline for applications is Feb. 12. More information is available online (link).

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