CMS boosts funding for Medicare assistance

Grants aim to help state programs expand outreach activities and improve work in helping beneficiaries make informed choices.

By Chris Silva — Posted April 14, 2010

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has distributed more than $40 million to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs to help Medicare beneficiaries obtain more information about their benefits choices.

The funding was made available on April 1 to the 54 SHIPs in the U.S. and its territories and is intended to assist people with limited incomes, beneficiaries with disabilities, and members of diverse racial and ethnic groups, CMS said.

Earlier this year, the agency said it would dole out SHIP grant awards, but it did not specify how much each state would receive until the April 5 announcement. States receiving the largest amounts are California ($3.56 million), Florida ($2.72 million), New York ($2.31 million) and Texas ($2.30 million).

CMS noted that, in applying for the grants, several SHIPs presented plans for expanding outreach activities to impact more American Indian and Hispanic populations.

"Over the past 20 years, the faces of our Medicare beneficiaries have changed, representing more diverse groups with diverse needs," said Teresa Niño, director of the CMS Office of External Affairs. "The way we identify these diverse groups and meet their needs must also change, and the SHIPs are best positioned to reach them in the communities where they live."

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

CMS has established goals to ensure consistency within the programs, including new performance measures and benchmarking methods to evaluate quality more accurately. In addition, SHIPs now have opportunities to be rewarded for program improvement, the agency said.

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