Tag Archives: SHIBA

Answers to Your Health Insurance Questions

Vantage Point: Time to Answer Important Health Insurance Questions

It’s that time of year again. My husband comes home with a huge packet of healthcare information. Yep, it’s open enrollment for his employer health plan. It’s time for us to look at the options and choices that best suit our family in the coming year.

Every year, Medicare beneficiaries get this kind of event too. It’s called the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). Each year from October 15 to December 7, they have the opportunity to look at the options available in their service area and choose which plan is the best for them and their health.

This is an important time for everyone. As we age, our health may change too. Understanding and knowing what coverage is best for you can be a daunting task, so you should ask yourself some very important questions each and every year.

Am I happy with my current plan? What’s changing for the new year? Is the premium going up on the plan I currently have? Do I need more coverage?

I understand that as Medicare members, you’re sent an enormous amount of marketing material during this time of year. All the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, and prescription drug plan companies are trying to get your attention and your business.

How do you weed through all the material? And even more important questions come up for you each year. Do I know the difference between Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement? Is the prescription drug plan I’m currently on the best value for the prescription drugs I’m taking? Finding the answers can be confusing and frustrating.

The answers you seek can be found quickly and easily. Visit our website or call us directly for answers to your health insurance questions. There are also independent brokers available to you, like GHB Insurance located right in Olympia, to help you with all the plan information you receive. In the Thurston County area, there are also SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefit Advisors) representatives who volunteer their time to help you understand Medicare and all the parts associated with it. They can be found at both the Lacey and Olympia senior centers.

So never fear, your Medicare questions can be answered here. Or at least, we can assist you in getting the answers you need. Remember, you have resources available to you. All you have to do is use them.

Joy Stanford is a community liaison with Health Alliance, serving Thurston County. She’s been involved with Medicare for 20+ years and truly enjoys it. She enjoys gospel, R&B, and country music, and she owns over 100 pairs of shoes.

Protecting Your Loved Ones with Caregiving Planning

Vantage Point: Looking to the Future

Meet Jessica Arroyo of Wenatchee

Being born and raised in the small town of Wenatchee, surrounded by my family, has been such a blessing.

I grew up seeing my mother and father go out of their way to take care of my grandparents, taking them to doctor appointments, picking up their prescriptions, and making sure they always had everything they needed. Fortunately, my parents have never been in the position of having to make life-changing decisions for my grandparents.

As I get older and my parents start to age, I know it will be my duty to care for them as well. And now that I have a child of my own, I think of the future more than ever.

We don’t like to think about bad things happening, but they still happen. And once an unexpected event happens, our world as we know it can start to disappear. The future is coming for each of us, and we all need to have a plan. We can help you start making that plan.

At my first event at the Central Washington Health and Wellness Expo in September, I got to share our Planning Ahead Guide. This is a wonderful resource for everyone, but especially for our Medicare members. This guide has answers about Washington’s living wills and power of attorney to help you plan for all situations.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another great resource for our members, local ombudsman Shawna Pringle from Aging and Adult Care of Central Washington. As an ombudsman, she works to protect, defend, and advocate for residents of long-term care facilities.

Doing the research you need to plan ahead is an important first step, but focusing on setting these plans into motion is key to preparing for the future.

Meet Joy Stanford of Olympia

After my father had lived in California for more than 60 years, I moved him to Washington in 2008. It was somewhat traumatic for him and for my husband and me.

Not knowing a thing about caring for the elderly, we spent many hours on research. One day, a friend of mine reminded me that my dad has veteran benefits. It turned out, he could live at the veterans’ home and be well taken care of. However, we still had concerns and wanted to know who we could turn to if we thought he was not being cared for. We were given information about the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program ensures the rights, dignity, and well-being of individuals living in long-term care today and in the future. One of its duties is to investigate concerns brought forward from anyone on behalf of the resident.

This program is focused on advocating for residents’ rights, including being fully informed on all aspects of their care, like cost or even changes in rooms or roommates. Residents have the right to complain, to participate in their own care, and to make their own choices, even if that means making choices others think are bad. They also have the right to confidentiality, dignity, respect, and freedom.

Whether it’s in-depth research, word of mouth, or a friendly referral, there are plenty of great resources in our community to help you and your family navigate this situation when you need it most.

Meet Breck Obermeyer of Yakima

The local Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) office is a great resource here in Yakima that you may not know about. SHIBA is a free service that provides unbiased and completely confidential help for those with Medicare, as well as help with healthcare choices for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s run by volunteers and has locations statewide.

According to the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the SHIBA office can help you:

  • Figure out your healthcare coverage needs
  • Check your eligibility for healthcare coverage programs
  • Compare health insurance plans and programs
  • Enroll in Medicare
  • Speak with Medicare on your behalf
  • Find other helpful agencies and programs
  • Report fraud complaints

Here in Yakima, you can talk to Debra Wilson, Mary Pacheco, or Sirena Phillips at the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) SHIBA office. They have a new number and a new location to serve you! Their new phone number is (509) 902-1115, and their new location is 107 S. 7th Ave., Suite 206, Yakima, WA 98902. Remember, these services are free and completely unbiased, which means you’re getting great information and help that’s the best for you and your needs.

Finding Medicare During the Annual Enrollment Period

Vantage Point: The Season for Informed Choices

It’s October, and folks living in North Central Washington are looking forward to beautiful fall colors and freshly picked apples. For those on Medicare, it’s also the start of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), when beneficiaries can shop for their 2016 coverage. It runs October 15 to December 7. But because of confusing plan changes and choices, some dread the AEP rather than looking forward to it.

But there are people who can help make these decisions easier. A trusted resource for Medicare eligibility throughout the year is the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program. The SHIBA program was formed to help consumers understand Medicare and their options for supplementing it. SHIBA counselors keep client information 100% confidential, and their main mission is to help clients see Medicare plan comparisons so that the client can choose using unbiased and accurate information.

At educational presentations in the past, I’d learned a lot from Dick Anderson, a certified SHIBA counselor, and recently had the pleasure of meeting with him one-on-one. Hearing Dick describe some of his stories captured what a valuable service he and other advisors provide. Counseling to help others by these trained volunteers truly comes from the heart.

Dick says there’s no Medicare plan that’s right for everyone, so instead he tries to get his clients to talk about their individual needs. This helps him determine what’s most important to them, so they can make a measured choice that meets their personal needs.

The rewards for this work are illustrated by Dick’s powerful stories of people from all different backgrounds, incomes, and educational levels who have come to him heavy with feelings of helplessness and confusion and after meeting with him, left with their cloud of anxiety lifted.

At Health Alliance, we strive to have quality, sustainable Medicare plans, but we agree with Dick that there’s no perfect plan for every person’s needs. Therefore, we value and respect the work SHIBA volunteers do to help people make informed choices.

For current Health Alliance members, we’re holding special meetings the first week of October in Wenatchee, Moses Lake, and Omak about our 2016 benefits and to answer any questions.

If you want to meet with a SHIBA counselor, you can make an appointment by calling Community Choice at 1-888-452-0731 or Aging and Adult Care at 509-886-0700.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.