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SMPs empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report health care fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education.
In doing this work, SMPs not only protect older persons, they also help preserve the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Because this work often requires face-to-face contact to be most effective, SMPs nationwide recruit and teach nearly 5,700 volunteers every year to help in this effort. Most SMP volunteers are both retired and Medicare beneficiaries and thus well-positioned to assist their peers.
SMP staff and their highly trained volunteers conduct outreach to Medicare beneficiaries in their communities through group presentations, exhibiting at community events, answering calls to the SMP help lines, and one-on-one counseling. Their primary goal is to teach Medicare beneficiaries how to protect their personal identity, identify and report errors on their health care bills, and identify deceptive health care practices, such as illegal marketing, providing unnecessary or inappropriate services, and charging for services that were never provided. In some cases, SMPs do more than educate: When Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries are unable to act on their own behalf to address these problems, the SMPs work with family caregivers and others to address the problems, and if necessary, make referrals to outside organizations to intervene.
- Cheryl Hollis
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