PHOTO: Kenneth and Retabess Ling of Iola saved more than $3,000 on Medicare costs in 2011, based on advice from their K-State Research and Extension agent in the Southwind Extension District, who was a state licensed counselor for Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK).
Retabess Ling couldn’t imagine that sorting through Medicare options for herself and her husband, Kenneth, could be as simple as making a phone call to their local K-State Research and Extension office.
“Our district agent, Tara Solomon, was like an angel,” said Ling, 81. “I saw the number in the local paper, so I called the office. She talked to me over the phone and took the information that she needed.
“She came to our house one rainy night and actually spelled out exactly which options were the best and how much they would save us. We were very pleased ... very pleased.”
According to Retabess, the Lings saved more than $3,000 on Medicare costs by finding the right plan. Their annual premium is lower, and they pay less for prescription medications.
Diane Burnett, family and consumer sciences agent in Miami County, became a state-licensed counselor in 2006, before Medicare D was introduced. The current program known as Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) provides free Medicare counseling to those 65 and older.
“I enjoy the work I do with the Medicare beneficiaries and their family members,” Burnett said. “It’s a challenge to help them by comparing the plans for them to make a wise consumer choice considering cost, coverage of all their meds, and convenience. Every client is different, depending upon the medications they take.
“The www.Medicare.gov website has the tool we use to compare the plans to show the estimated costs for the next plan year,” Burnett said. “We interpret the report and help the Medicare beneficiaries understand what it is telling them. Many folks are changing plans for 2013, and for many the total savings over their 2012 plan has been substantial. The impact of the program is evident when you consider total dollars saved and the clients’ favorable comments regarding this learning experience.”
In Kansas, the SHICK program is administered by the state’s Area Agency on Aging, with help from local volunteers and K-State Research and Extension.
Current estimates in Kansas indicate that more than 400,000 residents are age 65 and older. About 1 in 7 individuals have Medicare.
In north-central Kansas, family and consumer sciences agent Deanna Turner in the four-county River Valley District manages several volunteers who provide SHICK counseling to local residents. In 2011, Turner says she and her team educated 491 residents, who saved $113,575 on Medicare costs.
According to Elizabeth Kiss, K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist, 24 agents completed or maintained certified SHICK counselor status through the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services in 2011.
Certified staff members reported conducting 3,693 face-to-face appointments and responding to 2,103 phone calls. They guided 6,243 Medicare beneficiaries through the process of comparing insurance company plans and reevaluating their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.
“Medicare beneficiaries learned how beneficial it is to review their Medicare Part D enrollment every year,” stated Kiss. “Those who switched to a more cost-effective plan cut their insurance costs an average of $832 per person.”
For More Information:
Elizabeth Kiss, 785-532-1947, firstname.lastname@example.org
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