Efforts to Help People Understand the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Are Well Funded

prescriptionsThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) will receive $30 million to help people with Medicare until May 15, when the enrollment period for 2006 ends and during the next annual enrollment period beginning in November for drug coverage that will begin in January 2007.”

CMS reports that as the May 15th deadline to enroll in the Medicare Prescription Drug plans approach many people who haven’t enrolled are investigating what the coverage might mean for them. CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. said, “This year’s funding continues the enhanced support that helps SHIPs, along with our many other public and private partners, provide an effective resource in the community to help beneficiaries make confident decisions about their drug coverage. The thousands of SHIP volunteers around the country are helping many of our beneficiaries take advantage of the drug coverage and all of the other benefits and protections of the Medicare program.”

SHIPs are key partners with Medicare’s education and outreach efforts. SHIPs volunteers have helped by providing counseling services and advice about how to lower prescription drug costs. SHIPs has assisted over 27 million Americans enroll in plans that offer prescription drug coverage.

SHIPs are expected to continue high levels of success in their efforts to support beneficiaries in their own communities with the added funding. CMS has doubled funding to SHIPs since 2003. In 2004, CMS provided more than $21 million and increased that to over $31 million in 2005. The funding level is planned to remain high, even after the initial enrollment period for prescription drug coverage ends. CMS recognizes it is important for SHIP counselors to continue playing a role in educating beneficiaries about their drug benefit and help them understand the plan options. Especially during the months ahead when enrollment for 2006 ends.

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