Past Releases: Medicare Drug Benefit, Mental Health Provider Resources
Washington, DC — The new drug benefit provisions under Medicare Part D, effective January 1, 2006, will significantly affect nearly 14.5 million people with low incomes or dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. A majority of these people have mental illnesses and are treated at community mental health organizations that are committed to helping them with the complex transition to the new benefit. In the past year, these organizations have been turning to the National Council for Community Behavioral Health as the primary source for the comprehensive references, information and expert consultancy that they need to facilitate the transition.
“Community providers are at the forefront of helping the most vulnerable population of those with mental illnesses and low incomes move to the new drug benefit. They face many challenges in the process and certainly need help navigating the system,” said Charles Ingoglia, the National Council’s Director of Technical Assistance.
Among the key challenges is the transition of dual-eligibles—those who currently qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare—to Medicare for their prescription coverage. Helping consumers choose the right plan from the overwhelming range of options available in each state is another daunting task. Providers also have much to do to prepare staff for the new administrative and reimbursement procedures that Medicare part D will usher in. These and other concerns were voiced at a free “Meet Me” conference call on Medicare Part D organized by the National Council on November 7, which drew nearly 800 participants.
Interactive Meet Me calls, free to National Council members, help to prepare providers for the Medicare Part D transition and facilitate discussion of key challenges and questions. To date, three such calls have addressed several provider issues and recordings and handouts are available via Internet and CD-ROM. The National Council plans to organize more Meet Me calls to address urgent issues and questions as the transition date of January 1 nears.
“As the only national association representing community providers, we are in a unique position to articulate their concerns around Medicare Part D and address the operational issues most relevant to them,” said Ingoglia.
Targeted publications from the National Council offer further resources for provider readiness for the Medicare Part D transition. The ABCs of Part D: Helping Consumers Access the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage is a guide designed to equip providers to help consumers navigate the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and enroll in the plan that best meets their medication and treatment needs without interruption in care. The guide is available for free download at www.thenationalcouncil.org/medicare. Another comprehensive publication, Medicare Part D: Prescription Benefit Operational Implementation Guide for Community Behavioral Health, includes tools and forms to help agency staff help consumers and manage operational aspects during the transition period and the first year of the drug benefit. Both publications offer continuing education credits and print copies can be ordered at www.nccbh.org/medicare.
A free bimonthly e-newsletter, MMA Part D Update, provides updates on key information and resources available to providers. Those who wish to sign up for this newsletter should email Communications@nccbh.org. Two websites, www.thenationalcouncil.org/medicare and mentalhealthpartd.org—a site cosponsored by the National Council along with other mental health associations—also offer extensive and current information on Medicare Part D for mental health providers.
The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) association representing 1,300 mental health and addictions treatment and rehabilitation organizations that serve nearly six million adults, children, and families in communities across America.