Volunteer program takes mystery out of Medicare

Friday, January 14, 2005

Southeast Missouri Hospital volunteers for the past couple of months have provided health insurance counseling to Medicare recipients as part of a statewide program.

But a hospital official said many people aren't aware of the service. "We want to get the word out," said LaDonna Wills, nurse manager in the Cape Girardeau hospital's Generations Family Resource Center.

Hospital volunteers have been providing the service since November. Currently, they are counseling about four or five people a week, she said.

The statewide CLAIM program currently involves 240 volunteers who provide free, confidential health insurance counseling to Medicare recipients. CLAIM stands for Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri.

Wills said nine Southeast Missouri Hospital volunteers have undergone the training to be health insurance counselors.

The counselors can answer questions about Medicare eligibility, employment and retirement health benefits, supplemental insurance policies, drug discount cards and long-term care insurance.

The counselors work out of the hospital's Generations center.

"It is a natural fit," said Wills, explaining that people needing answers to medical questions also might have questions about their Medicare coverage.

Volunteers are available at the center on Tuesday and Wednesday each week. Volunteers are in the center from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and sometimes 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday. On Wednesday, volunteer counselors are available from 8 a.m. to noon.

Wills said people can just walk in, but it's preferable for people to call the state's toll-free number, (800) 390-3330.

Wills said those inquiries are then referred to volunteers. Within three days, a volunteer will call the client to set up an appointment or provide information over the phone, she said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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