HHS kicks off drive explaining recent Medicare revamp

WASHINGTON: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week unveiled a national education initiative to help beneficiaries better understand recent changes to Medicare, including the controversial prescription drug benefit, that were signed into law by President Bush late last year.

WASHINGTON: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week unveiled a national education initiative to help beneficiaries better understand recent changes to Medicare, including the controversial prescription drug benefit, that were signed into law by President Bush late last year.

The campaign's first segment is mainly focused on broadcast ads. But Ketchum, which last June was selected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an HHS division, to manage marketing efforts for Medicare, will offer PR support throughout.

Christina Pearson, spokeswoman for HHS, said the intent of the effort is "to communicate the new things, while explaining that the existing program is being preserved." She said, "It's the same Medicare you've always counted on, plus new benefits."

PR support will focus on encouraging people to go to an information hotline and to visit www.medicare.gov.

An HHS statement said the budget for the first portion of the campaign is $12.6 million. PR spending wasn't specified, but at the time Ketchum was awarded the Medicare account last year, CMS said the overall marketing effort was worth $25 million.

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