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 provide more education around preventive services.

In Chattanooga, TN, the local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) leveraged its contacts with community faith-based organizations to educate African-American seniors about both benefits and health education. Their goal was 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?

Katherlyn Geter

Katherlyn Geter received a White House Champion of Change award for her work to educate Medicare beneficiaries about their benefits under health care reform

Regional SHIP Coordinator Katherlyn Geter 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 featured 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 linked the show’s topics with other external campaigns (such as diabetes awareness month or Part D Annual Enrollment Period), and discussed how health disparities impact the target audience.

The Chattanooga SHIP also 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 participated 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 reported that they tuned in to the show to find out more about their Medicare benefits. The local SHIP also reported a steady stream of referrals as a result of the radio broadcast.

The church outreach and enrollment activities also continued to generate more attendees. The second time the SHIP conducted a Part D/LIS enrollment event at Mt. Canaan, 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.