State Launches Free, One-on-One Medicare Counseling Sessions Statewide During Early Medicare Open Enrollment Season

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                     The Illinois Department

                     of Insurance today announced free counseling sessions

                     at more than 25 locations statewide to help thousands

                     of seniors and people with disabilities learn more

                     about Medicare insurance coverage and how to apply

                     for benefits.  The Department’s Senior Health

                     Insurance Program (SHIP) volunteers will be on site

                     to provide one-on-one assistance during the Medicare

                     open-enrollment season, which this year falls on

                     Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.  Governor Pat

                     Quinn proclaimed this week, Oct. 10 – 15, 2011, as

                     “SHIP Week” in Illinois to applaud the volunteer

                     effort and to help remind Medicare-eligible residents

                     that open-enrollment begins sooner this year.

                     “Especially during the open enrollment season, many

                     Illinois residents have questions about Medicare and

                     how to apply for a plan that best meet their

                     healthcare needs,” said Acting Director Jack

                     Messmore.  “I am proud of the dedicated SHIP

                     volunteers who help seniors and people with

                     disabilities navigate through the Medicare

                     application process and towards obtaining necessary

                     healthcare coverage.”

                     SHIP assists Illinoisans who have questions about or

                     problems with Medicare, Medicare supplemental

                     insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans (HMO, PPO, and

                     PFFS), Medicare claims and appeals, prescription drug

                     coverage through Medicare and other sources, and long

                     term care insurance.  Throughout the year, hundreds

                     of trained SHIP volunteers staff 204 sites in every

                     county to help elderly residents learn more about

                     available Medicare insurance options.  Since SHIP’s

                     inception, volunteers have provided nearly 700,000

                     hours of counseling, assisted  more than 900,000

                     clients, and saved Medicare beneficiaries an

                     estimated $75 million in customer service costs.

                     In addition to the year-round services provided by

                     SHIP volunteers, the Illinois Department of Insurance

                     is conducting a series of free, one-on-one counseling

                     sessions throughout the state to assist

                     Medicare-eligible individuals with the Medicare

                     open-enrollment season, which runs this year from

                     October 15th – December 7th.

                     A list of upcoming SHIP events during open-enrollment

                     season is available on the Department’s website at

                     Insurance.Illinois.gov/SHIP or by calling the SHIP

                     toll-free hotline at (800) 548-9034.

                       Gov. Quinn’s proclamation reads:

                     WHEREAS, there are over 1.84 million Illinoisans 65

                     years of age or older on Medicare and more than

                     275,595 Illinoisans who are under 65 and have a

                     disability who are on Medicare; and,

                     WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the

                     number of Illinoisans 65 years of age or older is

                     estimated to increase to more than 2.4 million by the

                     year 2030; and,

                     WHEREAS, elderly and disabled people who lack a

                     social support network can be unaware of or

                     overwhelmed by their Medicare benefits or may be

                     unable to access and complete Medicare application

                     procedures; and,

                     WHEREAS, the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP)

                     was originated in 1988 by the Illinois Department of

                     Insurance in order to educate the citizens of

                     Illinois about Medicare benefits and programs through

                     community organizations, senior citizen centers, and

                     the media; and,

                     WHEREAS, since its inception, more than 2,500 SHIP

                     volunteers have contributed nearly 700,000 hours to

                     assist over 900,000 clients, saving Illinois’

                     citizens more than $75 million in customer service

                     costs, $40 million of which have been recorded in the

                     past two years; and,

                     WHEREAS, hundreds of active SHIP volunteers are truly

                     admirable citizens, contributing their time and

                     talents through more than 204 local SHIP sites

                     throughout Illinois in order to improve the lives of

                     Illinois’ Medicare beneficiaries; and,

                     WHEREAS, consistent with the Department of

                     Insurance’s consumer education and protection

                     priorities, SHIP volunteers counsel eligible Illinois

                     residents in every county, helping our seniors and

                     disabled citizens work through the often confusing

                     array of Medicare insurance options:

                     THEREFORE, I, Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of

                     Illinois, do hereby proclaim October 10-14, 2011 as

                     SENIOR HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM WEEK in Illinois, and

                     encourage all residents to recognize the important

                     contributions of the SHIP volunteers who assist our

                     elderly and disabled citizens.