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Action Still Needed to Protect Critical Medicare Outreach!

We wrote last month and late last year about the crisis facing programs that support assistance for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. Unfortunately, the problem has not yet been resolved. Authorization and funding for programs that support outreach and enrollment into benefits that help with health care costs was dropped from the current short-term federal spending bill, or Continuing Resolution (CR), at the last minute. With work on the next CR underway, it’s critical that lawmakers hear from you today about this important program. 

Established in 2008 by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), this funding helps community-based organizations like State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), and Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) identify Medicare beneficiaries who need financial assistance and help them enroll in programs that can make their health care and prescription drugs more affordable, like the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) and Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help). 

These programs can make a significant difference in the health and budget of older adults and people with disabilities. But they have notoriously burdensome application processes and many who may qualify are unaware of their existence, leading to underenrollment. Medicare Rights often hears from beneficiaries who haven’t ever been told about this assistance or are caught in administrative red tape, and who are facing health and economic hardships as a result. 

By facilitating engagement with beneficiaries at the community level, MIPPA has proven effective at overcoming these barriers. In the last three years alone, MIPPA grantees in every state have helped over three million people with Medicare better understand, afford, and use their coverage. 

But funding for this critical work is not continual. It expires and needs to be “reauthorized” every few years by Congress. Most recently, the program expired on September 30, 2023. Previous reauthorizations, 11 in total, have had broad, bipartisan support. Congress often effectuates these renewals by attaching MIPPA to spending bills as a “health care extender.” Lawmakers must do so again. Allowing these resources to lapse would cause widespread harm. It would force SHIPs, AAAs, and ADRCs to curtail their lifesaving and life-affirming work, putting beneficiaries with limited incomes and options at significant risk. 

Act Now! 

Ask your Members of Congress to include funding for MIPPA’s low-income Medicare beneficiary outreach and enrollment activities in the next 2024 spending bill. Explain that you are a constituent, that this program has a footprint in your state and/or community, a long history of success and bipartisanship, and must be extended without delay. 

To Weigh In

  • Look up your elected officials (House, Senate). Most have information on their websites. 
  • You can also connect by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and by sending an email through NCOA’s advocacy portal

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