Free Assistance in Navigating Medicare Plans
by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
Unless you have lived in a cave for the past few years or have sworn off late-night television, chances are high that you have seen those Medicare Advantage TV ads featuring the likes of Joe Namath, William Shatner, Jimmy Walker, and others promoting health insurance plans with plenty of promises of freebies that are not available from original Medicare.
At Connelly Law, we do an annual blog on these commercials when open enrollment season begins (Medicare Advantage Plans - Are They Taking Advantage of Our Seniors?), and Rhode Island's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Kathleen Heren also did a recent guest blog (All That Glitters is Not Gold) voicing her concerns about these commercials.
"These commercials lead you to believe that one phone call opens up a world of free insurance, medications, and chauffeur-driven transportation to your medical appointments," said certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "And because they show up in earnest during early fall and heading into the holiday season, I'm expecting them to offer a free turkey to every caller next time around. That's how ridiculous they are beginning to sound."
And, as Attorney Connelly points out, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. These commercials target the elderly who have a difficult enough time understanding the original Medicare sign-up process. "We have clients who reach out to us every year when these commercials flood the television screens asking us what our thoughts are on the subject, and it's just not an easy answer because everything is so individualized," he said.
"According to a recent piece of research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average Medicare beneficiary has a choice of scores of plans, something that cannot be explained in a single phone call, and requires someone to analyze the beneficiary's needs, medications, and pre-existing conditions in order to find the right plan," said Attorney Connelly.
In fact, the article that Attorney Connelly is referring to stated that "the average Medicare beneficiary has a choice of 54 Medicare plans, there are 766 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and a record 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans will be available in 2022 (up 8% from 2021)." Those are astronomical numbers. So, is it any wonder why those in need of Medicare plans find open enrollment time confusing and difficult to understand?
"...the average Medicare beneficiary has a choice of 54 Medicare plans, there are 766 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and a record 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans will be available in 2022." --- Kaiser Family Foundation
Well, there is good news, Rhode Islanders, a non-profit organization called "We Can Help You, Inc." offers free assistance to those struggling to understand the Medicare maze.
About We Can Help You
According to their website, We Can Help You, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization with a mission to help individuals navigate the often-confusing ocean of information surrounding Social Security and Medicare.
They carry out this mission by creating easy-to-understand educational resources and by helping individuals have access to insurance professionals who are qualified to provide thoughtful, practical, unbiased advice.
Whether you are trying to determine at what age you should begin taking your Social Security benefits or if you need to enroll in Medicare while actively insured through your employer’s health insurance program, their trained Member Agents can help.
They offer qualifying individuals private consultations as well as educational workshops at employer groups or at public forums. All their Member Agents must meet the following standards at a minimum:
State health insurance license in good standing.
Current AHIP Certification.
Up-to-date Long Term Care Certification.
Evidence of Continuing Education in topics related to Medicare, Social Security, and Long-Term Care.
Cannot be a captive agent (meaning they cannot only represent one insurance company).
And most important, their Member Agents do not charge fees for their services.
"We had a client who has been struggling for years with these ads and what worked best for her," said Attorney Connelly. "When we learned about "We Can Help You", I reached out to one of their agents, Kristen Caproni, who we knew from her wonderful work in the past with seniors. Kristen sat down with her, reviewed her current Medicare status, compared plans, and ended up saving her a substantial amount of money annually by connecting her with a plan that made sense given her situation. Needless to say, we are extremely pleased with the work she and "We Can Help You" do and have referred other clients to them for assistance. And best yet for our clients, the work they do around Medicare plan comparison and enrollment is free of charge."
Recently, Connelly Law hosted a training event for the staff at their Pawtucket location. "Jim Soucy (the founder of the organization and director of Medicare Education), Amy Putrino (a founding member and is an expert in the coordination between Medicare and Medicaid), along with Kristin provided our staff with a well-informed and information-filled event that was easy to understand and allows us to identify and refer clients who may be struggling with Medicare issues," said Attorney Connelly.
The educational seminars give attendees a high-level understanding of both Medicare and Social Security and help prepare for a more individualized consultation when a person is ready to take the next step. Since 2012, We Can Help You has hosted hundreds of workshops for individuals, employer groups, financial advisors, elder law and estate planning attorneys, and CPAs. Workshops are offered live (depending upon availability) or online via webinar format. There is never a charge for these educational events.
"Medicare enrollment and re-enrollment is at best complicated and confusing, then making a call to a nationwide phone bank and speaking with a person who only knows you by your zip code can be daunting as well as very impersonal," said Attorney Connelly. "It's great to have a resource like 'We Can Help You' right here in southern New England that was founded, staffed, and is managed by local people who understand the needs of our communities and the people of the region."