Surry County Seniors Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) Coordinator Carmen Long said a 65th Medicare anniversary “birthday party” at the Jones Family Resource Center was well received.
“We had a good turnout and I think that demonstrates the need for information about Medicare,” said Long. “There’s a lot of information out there and people have a difficult time figuring out what is accurate. Often seniors get information from a person who is in a different situation and that choice may not be the best for them.”
Long added that seniors with Medicare questions not attending the Aug. 13 party may still take advantage of the groups’s resources so they can make an informed decision about health care. SHIIP is a consumer information division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance that will help answer questions about Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medicare supplements, Medicare advantage and long-term health care questions.
“Some who attended didn’t know what they thought they knew about Medicare,” continued Long. “I think the birthday party gave them some comfort that there is someone out there to help them and is not just selling them something.”
She added that seniors were told how important the Medicare time line is so they know what to do when they qualify for benefits. Long said participants were surprised to see the difference in price for supplemental plans that offered the same coverage.
“Why not go for the less expensive plan so you (seniors) can use the savings for something else?” asked Long.
She said one new part of the Medicare time line is those who turn 65 this year must pick a plan before they are 65. These decisions will last until Dec. 31 of this year and open enrollment has been scheduled for Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 of 2013. Participants will have to again choose their plans during open enrollment.
The informational event was not all serious. Healthy “birthday” cupcakes and bags of microwave popcorn were offered to participants. The slogan on the popcorn bags consoled seniors on having so much information they felt like they could “pop.”
Long said the group can help citizens recognize and prevent Medicare billing errors and possible fraud and abuse. The group operates a toll-free consumer information phone line Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. SHIIP also is hoping to recruit and train volunteers, including seniors, to counsel Medicare beneficiaries within their community concerning Medicare issues. SHIIP also crates educational materials for consumers including the Medicare Supplement Comparison Guide.
She said that SHIIP volunteers Gina Gammons, the Community Resource Connections coordinator, Tammy Haynes, Medical Assistance coordinator, and SHIIP Regional Manager Jeanie Schepisi were invaluable to the success of the event.
The SHIIP program was founded in 1986 by the Department of Insurance in direct response to the growing concerns about health insurance for the more than one million Medicare beneficiaries in North Carolina. Long explained that numerous insurance companies in North Carolina sell Medicare Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other medical insurance products. SHIIP can act as an objective information service for seniors.
Interested persons can contact SHIIP by the nationwide toll-free consumer number of 800-443-9354, the ship web site www.ncshiip.com or e-mailing email@example.com. Long may be contacted by calling 401-8025.
According to Long, SHIIP plans three “Unlocking the Mysterys of Medicare” sessions. The first session will be held Oct. 19 at the SCC Elkin Center. A second session will be held in Mount Airy on Oct. 26 at the Human Services Building on U.S. 601. The third medicare session will be held Nov. 2 at at the SCC Pilot Center in Pilot Mountain. Each session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.