Imagine paying into Medicare for decades and then getting penalized when you apply for benefits because you weren’t aware of all the rules associated with signing up. It’s a reality for seniors and is the reason for the Central Oregon Council On Aging (COCOA), which supports the national organization Seniors Health Insurance Benefit Assistance (SHIBA) with a dozen local volunteers. Through seminars, phone calls and sometimes house calls, local SHIBA counselors help people understand the complicated processes involved with applying for Medicare insurance. Volunteers also act as watchdogs for elder abuse, fraud and sometimes simply lend an ear when clients just need to talk to someone. Volunteers support Meals on Wheels, SHIBA, TECH (Teen Elder Computer Help) and Gatekeeper Programs.
VOLUNTEER EXTRAORDINAIRE: JAN SMITH
She’s been a travel agent to celebrities, a medical assistant and an art gallery owner, but Jan Smith’s favorite job doesn’t pay. Smith, 68, volunteers as a certified counselor for SHIBA, sometimes for more than forty hours per week. She jokes that she dreams in acronyms now, but she wasn’t always such a whiz when it came to Medicare. After having trouble signing herself up, she became obsessed with learning all she could and sharing that knowledge. Now, she’s the only local volunteer who gives clients her home phone number.
BY THE NUMBERS
COCOA: Approximately 230 local volunteers served 74,620 Meals on Wheels in 2014.
SHIBA: 12 active local volunteers served 1,983 Medicare beneficiaries in Central Oregon in the past year.
MAIN EVENT: Seniors in Central Oregon can learn how to protect themselves from Medicare fraud, identity theft and other schemes at the Senior Medicare Patrol Scam Jam. The event will be held September 30 at the Riverhouse.
GET INVOLVED: For more information on this event, or to learn how to volunteer for other programs supported by COCOA, contact the COCOA Central Office in Bend at 541.678.5483. Drop-ins at the office (373 NE Greenwood Avenue) are always welcome. Business hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. People interested in volunteering for SHIBA should go to the state’s website: oregon.gov.