SHIIP Counselors Prepare For Enrollment Period
By Craig Cooper
Steve Russell believes he has found one of the best volunteer positions he could have for his skills.
He was an engineer at the Rock Island Army Corps of Engineers. For the past four years, the retiree has used his analytical skills and his eye for detail to help clients navigate the always-changing Medicare plans.
“You can’t golf all the time,’’ Russell said. “Being a SHIIP counselor gives me something very complicated and challenging to help people with.’’
SHIIP is the Senior Health Insurance Information Program providing free counseling to Medicare beneficiaries.
Enrollment for Medicare benefits is open all year as individuals turn 65 years old and become eligible, but there is also a special enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 for reviewing drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans.
Russell and other SHIIP counselors are available for appointments during the upcoming open enrollment period for reviewing plans.
“People with Medicare Part D coverage should check every year to make sure their plan fits their needs,’’ Russell said. “The providers can change premiums, co-pays, deductibles and the formulary every year and all of those can have an impact on your individual benefits.’’
The formulary is the list of medications covered by a specific Medicare Part D provider. For example, the provider may cover a medication one year, but not cover it the next year. If that drug is something you use, it could result in increased costs if you remain with the same insurer.
"One medication may cost you $200 a month or may not cost anything depending on your plan,’’ Russell said. “If you have Medicare Part D, you should sit down with a SHIIP counselor with your list of medications and look at what the providers of Part D coverage have on their formulary.
“We do everything we can to help people get the plan that best fits their needs.’’
The Genesis SHIIP volunteers are not representatives of the insurance providers and are not involved in sales. Their role is to provide objective information and assistance to their clients.
To qualify as an advisor, SHIIP counselors attend three updates each year and take a certification test they must pass in order to be counselors.
Russell said it is important to make an appointment with a volunteer during the fall Medicare Part D enrollment period.
“During the year I might have 10 to 12 appointments in a month. During the Part D enrollment period, I might have that many appointments in a single day so it is important to set up an appointment in advance,’’ he said.
Russell and the other Genesis SHIIP volunteers who each year assist hundreds of clients with enrollment for Medicare benefits were honored this year as recipients of the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award.
The Governor’s Volunteer Award program honors dedicated people across the state volunteering their time and talent to help an agency or organization.
Genesis Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) volunteers served 708 clients in 2016 and spent more than 700 hours counseling clients. They also saved clients $364,383 by finding a Medicare plan meeting their needs.
The Genesis volunteers serving the region are Russell, Bob Lavender, Garry Rudish, Lynn Sours and Jerry Stanger. Another volunteer will be joining the group for the fall open enrollment period.
“We’re very proud of this group and the complex, important work they do throughout the open enrollment period, but also all year long as clients call with questions about their plan,’’ said Allyson Miller, volunteer services coordinator, Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. “This group is very deserving of recognition.’’
To set up an appointment with the Genesis SHIIP volunteers, call (563) 421-1096.