Volunteers save seniors average of $1,079 on health care plans

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Senior Center says savings help put money back in local economy

For the last eight years, the Central Crossing Senior Center has offered free Medicare counseling for area seniors.

Since its inception, volunteers have advised over 1,370 participants on their health care and prescription options, saving them nearly $300,000.

The volunteers consult with seniors on Medicaid, TriCare, New to Medicare, Missouri RX, Medicare Parts A, B, D and Advantage Plans, and Medicare Supplements.

The Medicare volunteer team clocked in 327 hours in 2015, an increase from an average of 275 hours in years past.

"Part of the reason for this increase is that prescription drug formulas changed drastically for the year 2016," said Jeff Harp, chief publicity officer for the center. "For example, where an individual may have spent X amount of dollars with Plan A in years past, that same Plan A may now charge two times more for the same prescription in 2016. This change will be brought to light during counseling. Often times, the counselor can find an alternative that will bring that cost back to where it was in years past, and sometimes even less."

According to Harp, of the 270 Medicare consultations in 2015, 64 of them resulted in a cost savings to the senior. Many others saw less of an increase than they would have had they not changed plans.

"When you consider how health care costs have increase throughout the United States, those statistics are impressive," he said. "To put it another way, the average savings to a senior who had a savings was $1,079. That's a very nice Christmas present indeed. While it is true that not every senior had a savings, each of those individuals who were counseled have comfort in knowing their Medicare Part D program is the most affordable plan for them."

Harp reported counseling for Barry County residents resulted in almost $38,000 in savings, and counseling for Stone County residents resulted in over $19,000 in savings.

"Most economists agree that monies saved locally are available to be spent locally and have a magnification value of five times," he said. "In the case of Barry County, this means the economic activity resulting from those savings is $188,900, and in the case of Stone County, the economic activity resulting from those savings is $95,000. This helps not only the individual with the savings, but the resulting economic activity helps those counties where the savings are generated."

The center is always looking for volunteers.

"Volunteers will be trained and their reward will be the great comfort received knowing they've helped our area seniors in a such a tangible way," Harp said. "It will be a joy when you are able to save a senior some of their precious resources to spend in another way. It will be a joy to know that, as a result of your counsel, that senior has the best plan available to them."

For more information, or to become part of the volunteer team, people may call the center at 417-858-6952.

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