Medicare Triples Call Center Representatives to Provide Personal Assistance to Callers
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. announced that Medicare has more than tripled the number of customer service representatives available through its toll-free information line, 1-800-MEDICARE, which also received a record number of calls on Monday, April 26.
Secretary Thompson said the 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week hotline has hired 1,000 additional trained customer service representatives, for a total of nearly 1,400, in order to handle the rapidly rising number of calls generated by the new Medicare law. The expansion of the call center is also being done to handle the anticipated influx of calls generated by the availability of drug discount cards beginning May 3, as well as the ongoing addition of new prescription drug and preventive care benefits being added to Medicare in the next two years.
HHS is encouraging people with Medicare to call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or go to www.Medicare.gov for personalized assistance in comparing drug discount cards or to learn about other benefits being offered under the new law.
"Personalized help in choosing a drug discount card will be a phone call away," Secretary Thompson said. "We're expanding our call centers and providing a price comparison tool on our Web site so that seniors can receive personalized assistance in choosing a drug discount card that works best for them. These cards will provide seniors with real savings on their prescription medicines. We want to help beneficiaries shop to compare, and make an informed decision."
Call volume already has increased 150 percent since April of 2003, with over 3 million calls in the first four months of 2004 alone. This past Monday, the hotline received an all-time record high of 111,904 calls. Medicare officials estimate that 1-800-MEDICARE will receive nearly 13 million phone calls in 2004, up from fewer than 6 million in 2003.
Earlier this year HHS also increased funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), which provide one-on-one assistance to Medicare beneficiaries through trained counselors who are provided training from CMS. The added funding was to meet the increased demand for information about the new Medicare benefits now available.
"CMS is committed to making sure that Medicare beneficiaries get the information they need to make the best decisions in their health care," said Dr. McClellan. "The information available at 1-800-MEDICARE and www.medicare.gov supplemented with one-on-one information beneficiaries can get at their local SHIPS and other local organizations that work with seniors will help them be some of the best informed health care consumers in the nation today."
The source of this release is http://www.hhs.gov