Key Takeaways

  • Read the letters sent by NCOA and 56 other national health organizations urging House and Senate leaders to provide permanent, annual funding of $75 million for Medicare beneficiary low-income outreach and enrollment activities.

  • In the letters, NCOA and the other organizations remind lawmakers that funding authority for the program will soon expire, and it has been extended 11 times with bipartisan support since 2008.

  • Without "sufficient reliable funding...efforts to assist disadvantaged Medicare beneficiaries will be unable to serve the growing number of older adults and people with disabilities unable to afford and access needed health care." 

Everyone has the right to affordable and accessible health care. But for many low-income older adults who rely on Medicare, affording doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other essential benefits depends on receiving extra help that is available to pay for often expensive premiums and cost sharing.  

Unfortunately, despite significant progress, millions who are eligible for help are not receiving this assistance. That’s why continued funding from Congress for low-income beneficiary outreach and enrollment efforts are so important.

If not extended by Oct. 1, 2023, outreach and enrollment funding to state and local Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), area agencies on aging, benefits enrollment centers, and aging and disability resource centers (ADRCS) could be in jeopardy.  

These federal outreach and enrollment activities, originally authorized under the 2008 Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), enable low-income beneficiaries—many of whom are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid—to get assistance for prescription drug coverage and other essential Medicare benefits. 

At a minimum, Congress should extend the $50 million in annual funding for these outreach services. Better yet, lawmakers should take this opportunity to increase the resources to $75 million per year and make that funding—which has been extended 11 times since 2008—permanent.  

The federal funding NCOA and the 56 other national aging, disability, patient and provider organizations are advocating to increase and continue has contributed to almost doubling enrollment in low-income Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs), from 6.4 million in 2008 to 12.2 million in 2022. Still, more outreach is vitally needed. Less than half of those eligible for MSPs are enrolled, according to estimates, and about 3 million eligible beneficiaries are still not receiving Extra Help for their prescription drug costs.

The funding does not expand benefits but helps to ensure low-income Medicare beneficiaries can get the assistance they are already eligible for. Millions of people have already been helped, but the services are more important than ever as eligible older adults have been losing low-income assistance under Medicaid since the end of the COVID Public Health Emergency protections

Read the full letters from NCOA and 56 other national organizations to House and Senate leaders.

To House leaders:

To Senate leaders: