(WHTM) — Getting health insurance can be a confusing process, and for people eligible for Medicare, the options can be overwhelming. The good news is, in Pennsylvania, there is help.
“It can be a long and daunting process. Medicare is not easy by any means and that’s why we have so much business,” PA MEDI regional coordinator Zach Valentine said.
PA MEDI is a state-funded program, which allocates money across the state to local offices on aging. Valentine said those local agencies recruit and train volunteers to help seniors navigate Medicare’s often muddy waters.
“It really helps to give people a little peace of mind,” executive director of Lancaster County’s Office of Aging Tom Martin said.
Martin said volunteers go through an extensive training process, taking online courses as well as shadowing experienced counselors. Once they become counselors themselves, Martin said volunteers can help with a range of questions.
“New to Medicare, the upcoming open enrollment period for their drug prescription reviews and potential updates and just general insurance questions as they may come up,” he explained.
This service is free, even if someone is not quite eligible for Medicare yet.
“We see a lot of those new to Medicare consumers even coming in before they turn 65 and wanting to get a feel for what the process is going to look like,” Martin said.
Because volunteers aren’t trying to sell insurance, Martin said they can get an unbiased opinion.
“This way you get like the best recommendations and all the different insurance options that are available,” he said.
Valentine said with all the information out there, that can make the process a little smoother.
“Eighty, 90 percent of folks mention the TV ads they see, the phone calls they get, the stuff they get in the mail, and it’s just overwhelming,” he said. “And we do see people who every year are kind of shocked to learn what else is out there. “
Martin said it is easy to access this help. People can just call their local office of aging and set up an appointment with a counselor.
If people are interested in becoming a counselor, he said to ask for the volunteer coordinator. It is too late for the 2023 open enrollment period, but he said volunteers can go through the training now and be ready to go for the following year.