GAO: More enrollees take advantage of Medicare Savings Programs

Despite historically low numbers, enrollment for the Medicare Savings Programs is up, the Government Accountability Office reported Friday. With enrollment rising every year since 2007, the report suggests the Social Security Administration has been successful at eliminating barriers to enrollment, which could reduce Medicaid spending for certain beneficiaries.

Historically, low enrollment has been attributed to a lack of awareness about the four programs (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary, Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary, Qualifying Individual, and Qualified Disabled and Working Individual), as well as cumbersome enrollment processes through state Medicaid programs, GAO noted. For instance, in 2004, only a third (33 percent) of eligible beneficiaries were enrolled for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program, and only 13 percent were enrolled in the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program, the report noted.

But with intervention from the Social Security Administration, under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, the Medicare Savings Program boosted enrollment without significant workload changes from the Social Security Administration, GAO said.

The Social Security Administration spent $12 million in 2009 through 2011 to do so, which seemed to pay off, according the report results.

The Medicare Savings Programs had the biggest enrollment jumps in 2010 (rose 5.2 percent) and 2011 (rose 5.1 percent), attributed to the administration's outreach, as well as application transfers. The Social Security Administration transferred more than 1.9 million Low-Income Subsidy program applications to state Medicaid agencies between January 2010 and May 2012. Twenty-eight states said enrollment was up as a result of the transfers.

For more information:
- check out the GAO summary and report (.pdf)

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