Cassville Senior Center offers 
services, resources

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Volunteers needed for tax return services

The Cassville Senior Center is offering Medicare counseling, assistance with health insurance enrollment through the marketplace and tax return assistance to seniors and area residents, according to Melissa Speagle, new administrator at the center.

The services are a project of the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), is a community-based partnership through a grant received from the IRS that provides free tax return preparation assistance to low-to-moderate income taxpayers, seniors, those with disabilities and non-English speakers.

Speagle said the center is looking for volunteers for the program. Volunteers do not need prior experience, will receive training and can serve in a variety of roles such as greeters, appointment takers, reviewers, Missouri Property Tax credit return assisters or tax preparers.

Hours are flexible, and volunteers are asked to serve an average of five or more hours per week from late January through April 15, 2016. Volunteer sites will be located at senior citizens centers or community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools and other convenient locations. All TCE sites offer free electronic filing of tax returns.

In addition to tax assistance, a benefits specialist volunteer will be available by appointment to provide assistance with Medicare counseling. The service can help seniors by maximizing savings on medical and drug coverage. The annual open enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug plans is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, so seniors are encouraged to schedule an appointment at their earliest convenience so they can compare their prescription (Part D) and Medicare Advantage plans to get the best plan and option.

Another reason is to review plans is, even if a senior is already enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan, the premium may be changing, medications covered could be changing, or co-pays on prescriptions could be changing.

The benefits specialist, who is a trained volunteer, can see if a senior qualifies for money saving programs that help them keep money in their own pockets. Programs such as Missouri Rx, which pays 50 percent of Medicare Part D copays, and Medicare Savings programs that pay the Medicare Part B premium for those who meet income and resource requirements.

The benefits specialist can also help seniors and residents without health insurance explore options, and see if they qualify for premium tax credits (subsidies) that help make health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace more affordable, as well as assist with the enrollment process.

The health insurance marketplace open enrollment period is Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2016. If residents already have insurance through the marketplace, it is recommended to update their account information to keep the premium tax credits that lower the monthly premium. Those who do not have health insurance will be assessed a fee, which will increase in 2016 to $695 per adult, or two-and-one-half percent of income, whichever is higher.

A benefit specialist for Medicare counseling and health insurance enrollment will be available by appointment on Thursdays at the Cassville Senior Center.

In addition to the above services, the center also has a wide variety of resources for whomever may need them.

"Our desire is to have this building accessed for information as an outreach to anyone who needs help, not just seniors," said Speagle. "We have a book of resources people can go to for different needs. It lists non-profits and resources for everything from caregivers, skilled nursing, housing, transportation, disaster help, veterans benefits and health and wellness. It's great we can offer people more outreach help. If we can't help them, we might be able to lead them to someone who can help."

To schedule an appointment for assistance with Medicare counseling, health insurance, a tax return, or to inquire about volunteering or resources, people may call the Cassville Senior Center at 417-847-4510, 417-847-0131, or call June Huff at the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging at 1-800-497-0822.

The center is located at 1111 Fair Street and is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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