Medicare Education Efforts a Success

The Central Florida Medicare Rx Coalition, formed with leadership from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) and assistance from the Senior Resource Alliance to find ways to educate older adults about the changes in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, planned and hosted six Medicare Fairs drawing more than 1,200 people—750 in Orange County.

Co-chaired by Paulette Geller, WPHF Program Director-Older Adults, the group now is making plans for another round of community education to be scheduled sometime in the next few months.

Formed in collaboration with the Senior Resource Alliance (SRA), the coalition began looking for ways to help seniors understand the upcoming Medicare change six months ago.  The group included Florida Hospital, Orlando Regional Healthcare, the local Social Security Office, Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, state and local AARP representatives, Orange County, the City of Orlando and a host of concerned providers and advocates.

In addition to hosting the fairs, the group also succeeded in mobilizing 2-1-1 staff members to receive and field Medicare Rx inquiries. It also oversaw the distribution of educational materials. Some 158,000 copies of a special Medicare Rx edition of the Florida Hospital Premier Health newsletter were dispersed. This newsletter was sent to the combined FH and ORH mail lists (the first time their lists have been combined).

The efforts have drawn a lot of media attention, most notably in the Orlando Sentinel which has run a series of informative stories about the new prescription plan.  The producers of Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News program filmed a segment at the West Orange Information session and it aired across the United States on November 14th.

AARP officials say they know of no other community in the country as far along as Central Florida in proactive public education and awareness efforts.

The local efforts were recognized at a recent Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) conference, and WPHF was invited to make a presentation on the program as part of a panel in the GIA’s February conference.

The Medicare Rx Coalition now is developing a work plan for Phase II of its community education and advocacy project focused on enrollment of eligible older adults.