If you want to learn how to reach seniors, make a difference and promote a sense of wellbeing in thousands of Medicare beneficiaries across the state, check out your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP). Each year from Oct 15 – Dec 7 Medicare’s open enrollment period gives people a time to review their coverage for the next year and the option to enroll into, switch or disenroll from health and drug plans and/or return to Original Medicare. With so many choices, and so much information and mis-information showered upon beneficiaries through mail, TV, radio, direct soliciting and scams, it can be overwhelming for people to sort through and make a choice that best suits their needs. HICAP staff and their over 500 dedicated volunteer counselors across the state make a huge difference with this task.
HICAP, California’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), is a free, unbiased one-on-one source of information, assistance and advocacy available to seniors and younger people with disabilities. Making a good coverage choice can bring a sense of peace and save someone hundreds, thousands, even tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Recently Orange County’s HICAP program helped one client save $74,000, another one save over $90,000 and another one actually avoided $200,000 in medication costs by switching to a different plan that had his prescribed drug on its formulary.
Below are highlights from a few different HICAP offices around the state. They share their successes and strategies from 2015’s open enrollment period.
- Maria Nava, HICAP Program Manager with Merced County, reported that her HICAP helped clients save $800,000, up from $300,000 last year. They also expanded their outreach in rural areas for Spanish-speaking clients, including opening new counseling sites and expanding their marketing to rural schools, restaurants, and radio and TV ads.
- Leah McIntosh, Outreach/Volunteer Coordinator with Contra Costa County HICAP, shared they provided 1,188 one-one-counseling sessions, saving clients an estimated $988,000. With a dedicated team of 10-12 volunteer community educators, they hosted 230 community events/presentations and many community enrollment clinics. Through print media sources such as organization and city newsletters, they reached an estimated 1,974,000 people.
- Mary Ozurovich, Volunteer Coordinator with Orange County HICAP reported her program held 49 enrollment clinics and served 1,214 individual clients in 2015, up from 825 in 2014. They helped people save over $1,174,000.
Success Strategies ~ a Highlight on Orange County HICAP
So how do these HICAP programs plan for such strong success? One way is they start their preparations early. In fact, Linda Cardoza, staff with Orange County HICAP, and her team already started strategizing in January for this year’s Medicare open enrollment period. They find and schedule enrollment clinics at active sites with many clients, including this year looking at “super sites” like Leisure World, a retirement community in Southern California’s Orange County with over 9,000 elder residents. By advertising their upcoming enrollment clinics in local newspapers, and offering community education presentations 2 weeks before an upcoming event, they build substantial interest and have high turn outs at their clinics.
Another big help for success is having a lead person on staff strategize and manage the enrollment clinics and outreach efforts. Since 2007, Mary Ozurovich, Volunteer Coordinator with Orange County HICAP organized and managed the outreach effort, formed and led teams of volunteers, and in large part due to her leadership and her and her “right hand” volunteer, Linda’s passion and strong teamwork, it was a huge success.
And, as Mary and other HICAP Coordinators and Program Managers readily point out, none of this success in outreach, education and enrollment clinics could be done without volunteers. Orange County HICAP’s team has 80 dedicated and passionate volunteers, and they constantly recruit and train more volunteers to keep up with the rising demand and growing older adult population.
Many HICAPs also constantly look at and ask themselves questions such as: “How can we work with our community partners in a more efficient way? What challenges do they have? How can we make our services more convenient for them to use?” These questions lead both to creative win/win partnerships and to reaching and serving more Medicare beneficiaries.
HICAP makes a difference in thousands of peoples lives every year. HICAP staff and volunteers bring their passion and dedication to their work with beneficiaries, family caregivers and providers statewide. They are excellent at what they do and their human caring, compassion and commitment create an expanding ripple of empowerment, wellbeing and sense of peace in our communities.