Key Takeaways

  • Read the letter sent by NCOA and 75 other national health organizations urging Congress to extend funding for Medicare beneficiary low-income outreach and enrollment activities.

  • In the letter, NCOA and the other organizations remind lawmakers that the program has helped millions of low-income Medicare beneficiaries and their families.

  • Join in urging your members of Congress to extend funding for this important Medicare low-income assistance.

Many low-income older adults who rely on Medicare can only afford doctor visits, prescription drugs, and other essential benefits because of extra help that is available to pay for often expensive premiums and cost sharing.  

Millions who are eligible are not receiving this extra help. That’s why NCOA and other organizations are pressing for continued funding from Congress for low-income beneficiary outreach and enrollment efforts.

Federal outreach and enrollment activities, originally authorized under the 2008 Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), connect low-income beneficiaries—many who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid—with assistance for prescription drug coverage and other essential Medicare benefits. 

"This federal investment works," says a letter sent on Dec. 14 by NCOA and 74 other organizations to leaders of Congress.  "The program has been successful in providing assistance to millions of low-income beneficiaries and their families. From September 2020 to August 2023, partners assisted almost 3 million beneficiaries at over 60,000 group outreach events and conducted about 3.2 million one-on-one contacts with Medicare beneficiaries, their families, or caregivers."

As the letter reminds House and Senate leaders:

Low-income older adults and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes are often forced to make difficult trade-offs—like cutting back on necessary medications and doctor visits in order to afford basic living necessities—to the detriment of their health and well-being.   

"Without the assistance under the Medicare Saving Programs (MSPs) and the Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) Extra Help programs, millions of Medicare beneficiaries simply could not afford the care they need as out-of-pocket health costs continue to rise."

The federal funding NCOA and the 74 other national aging, disability, patient and provider organizations are advocating to continue has contributed to almost doubling enrollment in low-income Medicare Savings Programs and LIS .

"Additionally, the program supported approximately 350,000 beneficiaries with applications for MSP and LIS," the letter says. "It has helped increase the number of low-income Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in the MSPs from 6.4 million in 2008 to 12.2 million in June 2022."

Still, it's estimated that less than half of those eligible for MSPs are enrolled, and about 3 million eligible beneficiaries are still not receiving Extra Help for their prescription drug costs.

As NCOA and other groups said in letters sent to the House and Senate earlier this year, the funding would not expand benefits but would help to ensure low-income Medicare beneficiaries can get the financial help they already are eligible for. 

Over the past 15 years, the program has been extended 11 times with bipartisan support, and annual funding is a relatively modest $50 million. Most recently, the Senate Finance Committee included this health care extender in their health care package, which drew unanimous, bipartisan support.  

Please join in urging your members of Congress to extend funding for this important Medicare low-income assistance.

Read the full letter from NCOA and 74 other national organizations to House and Senate leaders: