In an initiative to help HMOs develop volunteer programs that improve the way support services are provided to senior enrollees, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will fund five HMOs throughout the U.S. through its Service Credit Banking in Managed Care Program.
Service credit banking recruits volunteers to help seniors with services such as transportation, shopping, light housekeeping and medication monitoring. These volunteers receive credits for the time they spend providing these everyday services that they can redeem from the program for similar services when they need them.
The number of seniors in HMOs has been growing steadily. In 1995, there were 3.2 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in HMOs. As that number grows, the HMOs are increasingly challenged to provide the supportive and preventive services that can help elders remain independent, avoid inappropriate use of the medical system and avert genuine medical emergencies.
Service credit banking programs can provide a wide array of services when they are most needed. Volunteer caregivers are matched with HMO members in need of occasional or ongoing assistance that can be provided by volunteers rather than professional staff. This program is a replication of a program the Foundation funded in 1987 to develop service credit banking programs to provide services for elders. Since then, the service credit banking concept has been gaining acceptance throughout the country.
The National Program Office for Service Credit Banking in Managed Care is located at the University of Maryland Center on Aging.