What SMPs Do
Senior Medicare Patrols (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. SMPs are grant-funded projects of the federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL). Their work is in three main areas:
- Conduct Outreach and Education. SMPs give presentations to groups, exhibit at events, and work one-on-one with Medicare beneficiaries to prevent, detect, and report potential Medicare fraud.
- Engage Volunteers. The SMP program is a volunteer-based program. Protecting older persons’ health, finances, and medical identity while saving precious Medicare dollars is a cause that attracts civic-minded people to volunteer for the SMP program.
- Receive Beneficiary Complaints. When Medicare beneficiaries, caregivers, and family members bring their complaints to the SMP, the SMP makes a determination about whether or not fraud, errors, or abuse is suspected. When fraud or abuse is suspected, they make referrals to the appropriate state and federal agencies for further investigation.
SMPs are discretionary grant projects funded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL). ACL is headed by the assistant secretary for aging, who is appointed by the president and serves under the U.S. secretary for Health and Human Services.
Every five years, ACL issues a new request for proposals for the SMP program and then competitively awards grants to a selected project in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 54 SMP projects have been supported by the same ACL-funded national resource center since 2003. The SMP Resource Center provides this website, content on several social media platforms, a national toll-free number and info@ mailbox to assist the public in finding their SMP, and various newsletters with content for or about the SMP program. The Center also provides training, resources, and direct technical assistance to the 54 SMP projects nationwide. The SMP Resource Center is funded through a competitive grant that is awarded every five years. To learn more about the Center, click here.
June 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of the SMP program. Click through this interactive timeline to learn more about the history of the program
SMP Program is EstablishedThe Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 (P.L.104-208) affirmed AoA’s role as a key partner in the fight against health care fraud by establishing the program that would come to be called the Senior Medicare Patrol program in 12 local demonstration projects. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) offered legislative language that directed the AoA to form projects that would recruit and train retired doctors, nurses, and other professionals to identify and report errors, fraud, and abuse. A Senate report explained the rationale for the newly created program by saying, “Senior citizens are our best front line defense against these losses [from health care fraud and abuse], but they don’t have the information and experience needed” to recognize and accurately report cases of errors, fraud, and abuse. The Senior Medicare Patrol would address this problem through volunteers who provide consumer education that is, along with provider education, one of the five primary purposes that the HIPAA lists as an authorized use of HCFAC funding.
SMP Program Grows to 18 Cooperative Agreements
In the program’s first year, more than 3,600 volunteers deliver 1,300 education and counseling sessions that reach 41,000 people. AoA increases the number of cooperative agreements for the program from 12 to 18.
AoA convenes its first National Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Conference
AoA convenes its first National Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program Conference in Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to share successful practices, strengthen collaboration between federal, state, and local partners, and honor outstanding senior volunteers. Fifty-one Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) projects, located in 45 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are in operation.
The SMP program has projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
AoA convenes three regional Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program conferences in the Washington, D.C. area, Dallas, and Seattle. The SMP program has projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
The National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center (The Center) is Established
Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging (now Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging), along with its partner the American Health Quality Foundation (AHQF), acts as an equal partner in the development and operation of the National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center (The Center) to provide technical assistance, resources, information, and support to 57 Senior Medicare Patrol Projects (SMPs) nationwide. The goal of the Center is to serve as a resource of technical assistance and support for Senior Medicare Patrol grantees and projects to maximize SMP’s effectiveness. The Center is dedicated to its goal. Thus, the Center acknowledges its facilitative, informative, and catalytic role in the success of SMP projects. To achieve this goal, the Resource Center is committed to: • Accessibility • Accuracy • Responsiveness • Flexibility • Permanency
Referrals to Medicare
SMP projects refer 1,700 cases to Medicare contractors for follow-up.
AoA Introduces Personal Health Care Journals
Personal Health Care Journals were created and distributed to SMPs for the public to record what happens at health care appointments to compare to their Medicare statements.
National SMP Logo Introduced
The SMART FACTS reporting system launches and AoA introduces a national SMP logo and outreach materials.
AOA Launches National Public Awareness Campaign
The Department of Health & Human Services, through AoA, launches a national public awareness campaign about Senior Medicare Patrol with fraud prevention public service announcements (PSAs), fact sheets, and other information resources. AoA provides media toolkits, training, and support to the SMPs to ensure effective placement and response to the PSAs. Also, SMPs receive special capacity-building grants, enabling many to hire coordinators of volunteers.
Volunteer Risk and Program Management (VRPM) Policies Introduced
Working with volunteer management consultant Linda Graff and Associates, AoA and the SMP Resource Center disseminate a comprehensive set of new Volunteer Risk and Program Management (VRPM) policies that will take effect in stages over three years, beginning in June 2013.
ACL is Established
April 16, 2012 – The Administration on Aging (AoA), the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD), and the HHS Office on Disability come together to become the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
SMP National Resource Center
The National Consumer Protection Technical Resource Center is renamed to the SMP National Resource Center.
National Bookmark and Brochure
ACL created a nationally branded bookmark and brochure for the SMP program to use for outreach and education.
SMP Resource Center Launches a National Facebook Page
May 1, 2017, is the launch date of the SMP Resource Center’s national Facebook page. The goals of the page are to be a national presence for the SMP program and also to serve as resources for state SMP projects to use.
PHCJ change to the My Health Care Tracker
The Personal Health Care Journals (PHCJs) is updated to better fit the needs of beneficiaries and families. The name is changed to fit the new functionality of the tracker as well as upcoming SMP Resource Center’s mobile application that will house a digital version of this tracker. *Note – The logo was changed in 2022 to match the new logo.
New SMP Logo
ACL updates the SMP logo from a blue and green color scheme to a dark blue, light blue, and orange color scheme with a prominent check mark.
Medicare Fraud Prevention Week is Established
June 5, 2022, starts the first Medicare Fraud Prevention Week. The national week draws attention to the SMP program and the actions everyone can take to prevent Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse.