Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications
212-204-6214

July 19, 2010

Consumer Group Releases Report on States’ Efforts to Increase Enrollment in Benefits for People with Low Incomes

-- Study Highlights the Role of Consumer Advocacy and Education in Designing and Implementing Benefits Reform --

New York, NY—The Medicare Rights Center today released a report that evaluates collaborative advocacy efforts to increase enrollment in Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) in four states. MSPs are programs that help people with low incomes pay their Medicare costs. MSPs are administered by each state’s Medicaid office; eligibility rules as well as processes for enrollment and renewal vary from state to state. The economic downturn has increased the need for MSPs, even as budget crises have posed new challenges to the states trying to meet this need.

The report, Local Promise: Maximizing Enrollment into Low-Income Medicare Programs through State-Based Consumer Advocacy, studies MSP enrollment strategies in four states—New York, Maine, Kansas and Florida. It describes the unique challenges facing each state, the advocacy work and state reforms that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges, and identifies remaining barriers to enrollment as well as opportunities to further increase the number of people enrolled in MSPs.

“These case studies explored how states implemented reforms mandated by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008, and were conducted before health reform became law,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “But there are lessons here that can help us better implement future benefits-related reforms—such as health reform. While laws create the potential for improving benefits, it is effective implementation that can transform the law’s potential into a reality for consumers. And what we’ve learned is that consumer advocacy plays a critical role in both identifying reforms and implementing them.”

Specific examples of how states overcame systemic enrollment challenges include the creation of an online application process for multiple benefits in Florida, elimination of the asset test in Maine and New York, and elimination of the practice of estate recovery in Kansas.

“The reforms that succeeded in these four states all testify to the value of increased cooperation among local, state and federal stakeholders,” said Baker. “They are models that illustrate how important it is that reforms and their implementation be informed by consumers’ experience. We hope these practices will be shared with other states as they implement benefits reform, and look forward to collaborating with others to further improve benefits in the four states.”

Local Promise: Maximizing Enrollment into Low-Income Medicare Programs through State-Based Consumer Advocacy is available at www.medicarerights.org/pdf/Local-Promise.pdf.

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

 

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