Program Aims to Train 10,000 Advisers on Drug Discount Cards

Article excerpt

Since the debut of the Medicare prescription drug discount cards in May 2004, providers in the field of aging have been besieged with questions from older people on Medicare asking for help in figuring out the complexities of this new program. As part of the American Society on Aging's mission to ensure that professionals in the field have access to the highest-quality information available to assist their customers and clients, the organization recently launched the ASA Medicare Advisor Program. The program uses a combination of live telephone conferences and interactive instructional modules on the Web.

The objective of this project, made possible by a grant from Pfizer, is to train 10,000 professionals serving people on Medicare nationwide on the benefits, rights and options associated with the prescription drug discount cards. Underway since May, this training is enabling participating professionals to serve as key decision-support resources for millions of Medicare recipients facing the complex choices related to selecting a Medicare drug discount card for use until 2006, when the interim drug-card program will be replaced by the full Medicare prescription drug benefit.

MEDICARE RIGHTS CENTER

ASA is delighted to be working on this program with the Medicare Rights Center (MRC) in New York City, which provides technical content for the trainings and other support materials. MRC is a widely respected, impartial advocate and resource center that counsels Medicare recipients on their rights and is frequently cited in the national media as an expert resource. For more information on MRC, visit the website at www.medi carerights.org

Together, ASA and MRC have created online training modules on the Medicare drug discount card featuring talking points that focus on key questions people are expected to have. The training modules address general issues related to the cards for older adults and people with disabilities, and also cover how the card will work for elders and people with disabilities who have low incomes.

One version of the training module will be helpful to service professionals in states without their own prescription drug program. In addition, customized versions of the module have been designed for the io states that currently offer a prescription drug program or discount card and have the largest populations of people on Medicare- California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and Arizona.

All training is provided free of charge and includes downloadable packets of materials for printing and distribution. All participants also receive the following:

* Free continuing education credits for social workers, nurses, nursing home administrators, counselors and carecase managers.

* Free access for 18 months to Medicare Interactive, an important source of information developed by MRC for the provider community, available through the ASA website.

* Weekly electronic updates on the drug discount card for providers navigating the Medicare system.

The ASA-MRC program also offers a question-and-answer section that is augmented each week with more information based on questions fielded by its expert advisers.

In the first six weeks after the program was introduced, more than 2,900 individuals registered to become ASA Medicare Advisors. These individuals report that they reach a total of 3.28 million Medicare beneficiaries through their programs each year. …