Are you a good listener? Do friends and family turn to you for help and advice? Do you have the patience to let a frustrated person talk it out? Can you communicate in simple and clear terms when explaining complex matters to others? Are you interested in a challenging and rewarding opportunity that will let you help others make decisions that will improve their lives?
The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) helps people covered by Medicare understand their insurance options. More than 800 Ohioans currently volunteer as counselors with OSHIIP. Through this statewide network of certified, local volunteer counselors - and a variety of other means, including a national toll-free consumer helpline - OSHIIP offers information and assistance to people covered by Medicare, their families and caregivers. Founded in 1992, OSHIIP has assisted more than 700,000 people and saved Ohio consumers more than $3.6 million.
To volunteer, you need to complete a 20-hour training program over four days (usually held on the same day of the week for four weeks). Initial training sessions for new volunteer counselors are regularly scheduled at convenient locations around the state. You can register for initial volunteer counselor training by visiting the Ohio Department of Insurance website. You also can sign up for training by calling Bill Friend at (614) 752-0718.
When your training is complete, you will be certified to counsel Medicare beneficiaries. You'll also know more about Medicare than most people ever will. Once in the field, you can expect consumers to ask any and all questions about Medicare, benefits and coverage under the Medicare program, and health plans that work with Medicare. OSHIIP will provide you with updated information through email and publications to keep you current.
You'll meet clients who have limited finances and have trouble paying their Medicare medical and prescription costs. OSHIIP can help them find assistance through programs from Ohio and the U.S. government. Depending on the specific situation, you might simply direct a person with limited finances to the appropriate agency, or you may help the individual complete the application for assistance.
You'll likely be able to answer most consumer questions right away. Occasionally, you may get a more complicated case that requires research. In these cases, you'll be able to rely on the experience and expertise of other volunteers, especially the OSHIIP coordinator responsible for your county. The OSHIIP trainer who looks after your county will be another valuable resource, as is the volunteer toll-free helpline.
OSHIIP volunteers report that they achieve tremendous satisfaction from the work they do. They help a client who doesn't know a needed service or treatment is completely covered by Medicare. They inform a person who can't afford to pay Medicare's monthly Part B premium about available assistance. They work with a beneficiary who may not understand how to identify the Medicare health plan that's best for his needs. They may even act as a consumer advocate during the Medicare appeals process.
As a volunteer counselor, you'll also acquire valuable knowledge. You'll be an expert in Medicare, related private health plans and other health insurance issues affecting people on Medicare. Plus, you'll get to know some of the most caring people in our state: OSHIIP volunteers!
OSHIIP is a free service provided by the Ohio Department of Insurance.
The staff of Boomerang thanks the Ohio Department of Insurance for contributing this article.
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