Press Release             

Contact: Paul Precht
Director of Policy and Communications

Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications

January 7, 2010

Medicare Rights Center to Receive Public Service Award
-- Award to Be Presented at Event to Highlight New Law That Makes It Easier for People to Qualify for Extra Help with Their Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs --

New York, NY—The Medicare Rights Center will receive a Public Service Award from the Social Security Administration (SSA) on Friday, January 8. Joe Baker, president of Medicare Rights, will accept the award on behalf of the organization.

The award recognizes the Medicare Rights Center’s outreach efforts to inform the public about Extra Help, the federal program that helps pay for premiums and copayments under Medicare prescription drug coverage, and its continuing work to ensure that all eligible people receive this benefit.

The award will be presented at a press event to highlight new changes in the law that will make it easier for people to qualify for Extra Help. The event will take place on Friday, January 8th, at 11:00 a.m. at B.B. King Blues Club, 237 West 42nd Street in New York City and features rock and roll legend Chubby Checker and the Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue.

“We hear every day from people who would benefit from the Extra Help program,” said Joe Baker. “The new eligibility rules should help deliver this valuable benefit to more people who need it. The Medicare Rights Center worked with other advocates to make this new law a reality, and it is an honor to be recognized for our role.”

The new “twists” in the law—the value of life insurance policies will no longer count as an asset, and in-kind help will no longer count as income when determining a person’s eligibility for Extra Help—took effect January 1, 2010, and are the result of the passage of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2020.

In addition to screening clients for Extra Help, Medicare Rights also works on increasing enrollment in Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), which help pay Medicare premiums, coinsurance and deductibles. Since 2006, Medicare Rights has saved thousands of low-income clients almost $18 million through its outreach and enrollment efforts for Extra Help and MSP.

The Medicare Rights Center chairs the New York State Medicare Savings Coalition, an alliance of over 150 community-based organizations, businesses and government agencies in New York State dedicated to improving health care programs for people with limited means. This Coalition work led to the creation of the Deputization Project, which trains community advocates and social workers in New York City to apply for Medicare Savings Programs on behalf of their clients. The project currently has over 600 trained deputized agents.

A new project will bring together Medicare Rights and Food Bank for New York City in a collaborative effort to enroll older New Yorkers with limited incomes in four underutilized programs—Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Food Stamp Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), Medicare Savings Programs, the Extra Help program and the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. The total project value to enrollees is expected to be $46 million.

“The information we gather through our hotlines, our outreach efforts and enrollment programs forms the core of our policy briefs and recommendations,” said Baker. “We know that the need for help persists. Health reform legislation is the perfect opportunity to advocate for those struggling with their Medicare costs, and we are working hard to ensure that provisions that will expand enrollment and eligibility in Extra Help and MSPs are included in the final legislation”

Reporters interested in attending the event should contact John Shallman, Regional Communications Director at 212-264-2500 or the Social Security Press Office at 410-965-8904.


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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.


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