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Statement by AARP Associate Executive Director Chris Hansen on Making Medicare Discount Card Enrollment Easier

Making enrollment easier will help hundreds of thousands of people who qualify for a $600 annual credit on the cards to receive that assistance to help purchase prescription drugs. We want to thank CMS Administrator Mark McClellan and his staff for working with AARP and our Access to Benefits Coalition (ABC) partners to make this happen.

Facilitated enrollment puts an actual discount card in the hands of beneficiaries who meet income criteria for the $600 credit. That is because they are already in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP) that serves people with similar incomes. All these MSP enrollees need to do to activate the card with the $600 credit is call an 800 number and confirm that they do not have other drug coverage.

Making sure that this much-needed money gets to people who qualify for it – especially those in the Medicare Savings Programs who we know meet the income criteria – has been a priority for AARP. MSP enrollees have very limited incomes that qualify them for some help with Medicare cost-sharing, but they do not qualify for Medicaid drug coverage and so are among those who most need help with drug costs. They also are the most difficult to find through customary outreach efforts – in fact, less than two-thirds of those eligible for MSP benefits are enrolled. Facilitated enrollment bypasses the need for outreach efforts by putting a card in the hands of eligible people.

We trust CMS to take the next logical step and also auto-enroll people in Medicare savings programs into Medicare drug plans next year. The proposed regulations deem MSP enrollees eligible for part D subsidies, which we wholeheartedly support. For all the same reasons that we are facilitating enrollment in the discount card, automatically enrolling these people in the Medicare part D program will make sure they receive the excellent low-income prescription drug benefit as authorized by last year's Medicare Modernization Act.

The extra assistance for people with limited incomes is among the most important and widely supported facets of both the discount card and drug benefit. We need to continue efforts to get this help to as many eligible people as possible.

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