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Outreach above and beyond to make sure people with Medicare in Oregon know of available help

For more information, contact:
Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program
1-800-722-4134 or www.oregonshiba.org.
The Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon is also an excellent resource to have your questions answered and get information about local resources. www.adrcoforegon.org.

Deborah Mitchell of Salem did not realize she was eligible for a Medicare Savings Plan and was elated to learn from an eligibility counselor that all she needed to do was apply. "The extra effort that was made to help me learn about this benefit has made a huge difference for me," she said. "I cannot thank everyone enough for their help. Because I am on a fixed income, having my medical co-pays and deductibles and my Medicare premium paid for every month has made a tremendous difference in my life," she said.


In Oregon, 15% of all Medicare enrollees are also enrolled in Medicaid. Yet many more people with Medicare are eligible for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program and are not enrolled. Recently, NorthWest Senior and Disability Services (NWSDS) teamed up with the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon Insurance Division and the State Unit on Aging of the Department of Human Services to use grant funds to target outreach to low income Oregonians on Medicare like Deborah who may be eligible for help.


Part of the grant funding was used to gather together eligibility specialists, SHIBA Medicare counselors, and other state and local office representatives who work with this population. The goal was to help everyone better understand how eligibility for these programs is determined and how benefits are accessed. A "Building Bridges between Medicare and Medicaid" cross training was held in six regions across Oregon. "The training gave us the opportunity to learn more about these programs, share knowledge, discuss complex cases, and better assist our clients," said Beth Jackson, NWSDS.


The feedback from this training revealed that across Oregon, attendees felt this knowledge would help them better serve their clients. "It was a useful training and I especially appreciated meeting some Medicaid workers to better understand the "ins and outs" of their work with clients," said one attendee. An additional benefit of the cross training was the opportunity for Medicaid workers and SHIBA Medicare counselors from the same county to meet face to face to facilitate better relations and referrals between the two networks.


In addition to the statewide training that occurred, the grant funding is being used to contact people across the state that may qualify for help. In the past year, NWSDS' eligibility specialist, Rebecca Schmiedel, has made nearly 1,000 phone calls and screened over 6,700 people. She also sends out information about healthy living, Medicare's preventive services, and local resources.


"Some people may have fallen through the cracks like Deborah," Schmiedel says. "We make contact with them to let them know what is available. We hear back from many people about how appreciative they are that we go the extra mile for them," she said.


Grant funds were also shared with 10 local SHIBA sponsors for outreach into areas with historically low levels of participation in these valuable benefit programs. A main focus of the grant is to further develop a network of informed service providers aware of programs available to Medicare beneficiaries who have financial need.