A new federal initiative will increase funding for grassroots efforts to educate seniors and prevent Medicare fraud.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded $9 million in grants to fund more than 50 projects developed by the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), a federal program organized by the Administration on Aging (AoA) that recruits and trains senior volunteers to recognize and report instances of health care fraud, error, and abuse.
“These grants will put more feet on the ground in the fight against Medicare fraud,” said CMS administrator Donald Berwick, MD in a statement released Friday, October 1, 2010. “We want to ramp up our local community resources to educate seniors and people with Medicare about how they can help us stop it.”
SMP partners with seniors to provide group and individual counseling sessions, community events, and media outreach campaigns to educate Medicare beneficiaries about the prevalence and impact of Medicare fraud. “The SMP program empowers seniors through increased awareness and understanding of healthcare programs,” an explanation on the AoA Web site reads. “This knowledge helps seniors to protect themselves from the economic and health-related consequences of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, error and abuse.”
SMP also processes complaints submitted by beneficiaries, family members, and caregivers over instances of fraud, referring them to the appropriate agency for further investigation as needed. These complaints have yielded significant returns in recovered funds for Medicare and Medicaid, totaling an estimated $105.7 million in savings.
The grants have been in motion since earlier this year, when President Obama and the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited a senior center in Wheaton, Maryland. Declaring SMP initiatives a priority, they announced that funding would double to support and expand existing SMP projects.
Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging, applauded the measure. “Additional funding for the Senior Medicare Patrol grantees will help us significantly increase our outreach and education to people with Medicare,” she said.
Pharmacists who serve the aging population can refer patients to StopMedicareFraud.gov, a government Web site that provides interactive tools and resources teach seniors how to “spot, stop, and report Medicare fraud.”
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