Combining Benefits and Wellness Education in Chattanooga
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Combining Benefits and Wellness Education in Chattanooga

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January 14, 2011

Health reform legislation ushered in a new package of benefits for persons with Medicare, as well as a mandate for Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) outreach and enrollment grantees to do more education around preventive services. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is leveraging its contacts with community faith-based organizations to reach African-American seniors with both benefits and health education. Their goal is to not only increase enrollment and understanding of benefits, but to contribute to reducing health disparities among minority communities in Tennessee.

Who is the target audience?

Medicare beneficiaries – with a special emphasis on African-American seniors with chronic health conditions and who may be eligible for, but not receiving, other key benefits

What are they doing?

Regional SHIP Coordinator Katherlyn Geter has hosted a radio show called “Medicare Connection” on a local AM gospel station that reaches roughly 7,000 listeners, mostly African-American. The weekly 15-minute show features education about benefits and preventive services relevant to Medicare beneficiaries, both those in Medicare Advantage plans and Original Medicare. Many of the 2010 programs focused on changes people could expect in the coming year as a result of the Affordable Care Act, such as reductions in drug costs for those falling in the “donut hole” and changes to cost-sharing. Whenever relevant, Geter links the show’s topics with other external campaigns (such as diabetes awareness month or Part D Annual Enrollment Period), and discusses how health disparities impact the target audience.

The Chattanooga SHIP also has partnered with Mt. Canaan Baptist Church as a venue for outreach and enrollment activities. The church serves a community with a large number of low-income residents, many of whom have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, HIV, and heart disease. SHIP counselors have hosted Medicare classes at the church, and Medicare Part D enrollment events that included screening and application assistance for the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help).

The SHIP is participating in similar preventive services and benefits education sessions at local churches as part of a 12-day citywide revival being put upon by the Servant Leadership Council of Chattanooga.

What are the results?

Since beginning her radio show, Katherlyn Geter has received much feedback—phone calls, email, people approaching her on the street—from listeners who report that they tune in to the show to find out more about their Medicare benefits. The local SHIP also reports a steady stream of referrals as a result of the radio broadcast.

The church outreach and enrollment activities have also continued to generate more attendees. This past year was the second time the SHIP conducted a Part D/LIS enrollment event at Mt. Canaan, and many attendees returned from the previous year and brought a friend. Anecdotally, the SHIP counselors have heard from their community that seniors have a better understanding of the components of Medicare benefits and how to use preventive services to improve their health and well-being.

For more information

Katherlyn Geter
SE TN Area Agency on Aging and Disability
(423) 424-4275
kgeter@sedev.org 

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