NCOA Encourages Recipients to See if They’re Eligible
Arlington, VA—Medicare beneficiaries across the country will soon find letters in their mailboxes from the Social Security Administration (SSA) alerting them to programs that could help pay their out-of-pocket health care expenses. This year, more than 2.2 million people will receive the letters. With so many scams swirling around the release of the new Medicare cards, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) wants to reassure recipients that these form letters from SSA are not a scam, and encourage anyone who receives one to contact a local aging organization to see if they qualify for these important economic support programs.
“The letters are only sent to Medicare beneficiaries who are likely to qualify for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and Medicare Part D Extra Help,” said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access. “So, this is an opportunity for anyone who gets one to reach out to a local organization that can work with them to verify their eligibility and to support their application process.”
Roughly 8.5 million people are enrolled in MSP and about 12 million use Extra Help to afford their Medicare premiums, co-payments, deductibles, and prescriptions. An estimated five million more Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for the programs, but never apply. Every community has an organization that provides assistance enrolling in benefit programs and can explain how to use the benefits.
“Each day, thousands of baby boomers turn 65—and many are retiring with increasing amounts of debt and less savings,” Fried said. “Spiraling health care costs can significantly cut into our economic security as we age, but these programs can reduce that burden. If you or someone you know gets an SSA letter, it pays to find out more.”
There are two places where beneficiaries can get in-person help to see if they’re eligible:
- The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides free, unbiased, one-on-one assistance to help Medicare beneficiaries and their families get answers to insurance questions and apply for benefits. Locate a local SHIP by calling 1-877-839-2675 or visiting https://www.shiptacenter.org/.
- NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access supports a national network of 69 Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs) across the country which help Medicare beneficiaries with limited incomes access programs that help pay for health care, food, and more. Find a list of BECs here: www.ncoa.org/centerforbenefits/becs/meet-the-becs/.
“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently began mailing new Medicare cards to all currently enrolled beneficiaries. NCOA’s partners across the country are hearing about several scams around those cards, so we wanted to assure beneficiaries that this opportunity to apply for MSP and Extra Help is real,” added Fried. For more information about the Medicare card scams, check out this NCOA blog, “New Medicare Card Scams Hit Nationwide.”
Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for MSP and Extra Help also may be eligible for other benefits to supplement their monthly budget. NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp.org is a free, confidential online screening tool that older adults can use to find federal, state, and local benefit programs that help pay for health care, prescriptions, housing, utilities, food, and more.
To assist state and local benefits counselors, NCOA also has updated its visualization tool that uses SSA data to illustrate the number of letters sent to each zip code nationwide. This information can help state and local agencies more effectively target outreach to those who may be missing out on MSP and Extra Help in their communities.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is the national voice for every person’s right to age well. NCOA empowers individuals with trusted solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and protects and strengthens federal programs that people depend on as they age. Working with a nationwide network of partners and directly with individuals, NCOA’s goal is to improve the lives of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.