Medicare is not a one size fits all system. Many people, as they approach eligibility at age 65, feel lost as to how to best use this benefit in their unique situation. Once enrolled, there can still be questions about bills, claims, and the annual changes to the plans and providers, all of which can drastically affect out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Fortunately, there is a program to help navigate this system and help you get your best coverage each year–SHIIP.
The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is a free, confidential program open to all Iowa residents age 65+, or those under 65 who are on Medicare because of a disability. SHIIP helps individuals understand the different Medicare options, enroll in the Medicare and Medicare supplement plans that are best for them, and navigate claims and appeals. Organizations throughout the State host SHIIP offices that are staffed with volunteers ready to meet one-on-one and provide unbiased guidance.
“The SHIIP-SMP program has a great track record for saving Iowans money and helping them with Medicare questions and problems. In 2022, the program served over 60,000 Medicare beneficiaries and save clients in Iowa millions of dollars”, shared Kristin Griffith, Iowa’s SHIIP-SMP Director.
In Dubuque County, there are just over 17,000 Medicare-eligible individuals. Two local SHIIP offices operate in Dubuque, one at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital and one at MercyOne Dubuque Hospital. They are able to serve about 16% of Medicare-eligible population. To expand services, Stonehill Communities is currently recruiting volunteers to open a SHIIP office on their campus later this year.
SHIIP also runs the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program. This program educates the community on Medicare fraud and abuse and has a phone line where individuals can report scams or get help if they have fallen victim to a scam. Program volunteers are trained to audit Medicare statements to check for fraud or billing errors.
Across the state, over 350 trained SHIIP/SMP volunteer counselors assist thousands of Iowans each year to understand their Medicare benefits and avoid health insurance fraud through individual counseling sessions and community education. SHIIP/SMP volunteer counselors enjoy tackling new challenges and learning new information. They gain satisfaction from helping people, are happy to work with diverse populations and value being an objective and trusted source of information. As we learn to connect in new ways, comfort learning new computer skills is also important. SHIIP/SMP provides all the up-to-date training and resources to assure SHIIP/SMP volunteers are prepared and have the tools they need for counseling and community education.
As our local 65+ population continues to grow, the need for support when it comes to understanding and effectively using Medicare will also grow and more counselors are needed. To learn more about SHIIP/SMP or becoming a SHIIP volunteer counselor, visit SHIIP.iowa.gov or call Stonehill Communities at 563.557.7180 x1218.