State's Top Medicare Volunteer Helping Our Seniors
Posted on Monday, June 18th, 2018
Teamwork Saving Seniors Money on Medicare: Don Sessions (r) of
Falconhead Resort, Burneyville, has been recognized by the Oklahoma Insurance
Department as the state's top Medicare volunteer for 2017. He meets with
seniors to tell them about Medicare choices that can save them money,
especially on prescriptions. As a public service, the Marietta Pharmacy,
represented by pharmacist Jenny Hambrick, provides a consultation
room for Sessions, and Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, represented
by administrator Richard Barker, furnishes a laptop computer for the
room. Since 2008, Sessions has counseled 2,165 people and they
saved $1.2 million.
The top Medicare volunteer in Oklahoma is Don Sessions of Falconhead. Sessions recently received a certificate award from the Oklahoma Insurance Department for helping more people than any other Medicare counselor in 2017.
He is one of 125 volunteers in the department’s Medicare Assistance Program (MAP). Last year Sessions individually helped 417 Marietta area residents better understand their Medicare benefits as well as learn about the choices they can make each year that would save them money or provide them with better coverage.
Since 2008, Sessions has assisted 2,615 people who altogether saved $1.2 million. That averages $475 a year per person, but individual savings sometimes total thousands of dollars.
There is no cost for using MAP, and MAP volunteers are not paid.
Sessions assists people by reviewing their current medication list to make sure the Part D Prescription Drug Plan in which they are enrolled is still the best option for them. More than half the time, the senior will find a lower cost plan for the next calendar year.
The process of going through this annual review takes a few minutes of the senior’s time by telephone and in person.
Sessions, a retired certified public accountant, said he volunteers for the satisfaction of knowing that the savings local seniors are enjoying are going right back into their communities in spending on other needs and necessities.
“It is very special to me to be able to assist people with their questions about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicaid, company benefit plans, managed care plans, and the extra-help provision that reduces what low income seniors pay for prescriptions,” Sessions said.
He started volunteering in 2006 when Medicare Part D was added to Medicare.
“Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Reid Schnorrenberg at Marietta Pharmacy, and other helping agencies realized people are going to need assistance understanding this new benefit and selecting a prescription drug plan. The hospital sponsored me for volunteer training. The pharmacy provided a consultation room, and the hospital placed a laptop computer there for my use in doing plan searches. Working together has extended the reach of this program and made all parties better positioned to answer patients’ questions,” Sessions said.
In recent years, Jim Thompson, a retired chemist living in Sessions’ neighborhood, trained as a MAP volunteer to help Sessions behind the scenes with computer work. Sessions refines the search results and meets with beneficiaries at the pharmacy to review their choices and assist them with enrollment.
Typically, there are 25 Part D plans available in Oklahoma and each of these plans is different, from the monthly premium, to the copay amounts, to the list of drugs that plan covers.
Too often, MAP volunteers find, seniors will choose the plan with the lowest monthly premium without finding out if the plan covers all their medications. If one or more of their prescription medications is not on the formulary for that plan, the senior will have to pay for that drug out of their own pocket.
And even though their current plan may have worked well for them this year that does not mean it will continue to be lowest cost in the following year.
“The plans may change their pricing or formulary from year to year, so the Medicare enrollee needs to see us every fall during open enrollment to do a new plan search and quite possibly switch plans,” Sessions said.
Open enrollment, when Medicare beneficiaries can make plan changes for the following calendar year, is October 15 through the first week of December. Sessions meets with hundreds of seniors during this period. His telephone number is 580-276-2333.
People new to Medicare or seeking to perform a new drug plan search, can reach a MAP volunteer by contacting the hospital, clinic, health department, DHS, senior volunteer program, or pharmacy in Marietta. Statewide, seniors can call the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s MAP program at 1-800-763-2828. The federal Medicare help line at 1- 800–633-4227 is another source of free help. Also, the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov has an interactive “Plan Finder” search tool for volunteer and consumer use.
The state’s recruitment and training of MAP volunteers is funded by grants from the Senior Health Insurance Counseling Program (SHIP) of the federal government. MAP receives no funds from private industry, assuring seniors that the free information they receive is completely unbiased.
According to the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, as of January 2018, there are 2,078 Medicare beneficiaries in Love County and 713,000 statewide. About 80% enrolled because of reaching age 65. About 1% enrolled because of becoming ill with end stage renal disease. The remainder enrolled because of a qualifying disability.