Inside The Senior Alliance: Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (Ep 1.2)
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Jason is joined by Kari West, Senior Alliance manager of the Medicare and Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP). Kari describes the program as a free service that educates, counsels, and empowers Michigan’s older adults, individuals living with disabilities, and those who serve them so that they can make informed health benefit decisions.
Welcome to inside The Senior Alliance. My name is Jason Maciejewski, the chief advocacy and planning officer at the agency. And today I’m joined by Kari West. So Kari you’re the manager of the Medicare Medicaid assistance program. And it usually goes by the acronym MMAP. So we may slip into that acronym a little bit today, but can you tell us what the Medicaid Medicare assistance program does for people?
Kari West (00:23):
Well, Jason, I think the most important thing we do is listen, and we give people facts about their Medicare coverage. We have 52 certified Medicare counselors who work with beneficiaries to empower them with information and facts so that they can make informed decisions. We work with beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. We help people apply for programs to lower their costs, like the extra help, limited income subsidy program that helps people with their part D prescription drug costs and the Medicare savings program that lowers Medicare part B premium costs.
Jason Maciejewski (01:05):
Kari, when does the Medicare part D open enrollment period?
Kari West (01:08):
Annual enrollment is between October 15th and December 7th of each year. That’s a great time for Medicare beneficiaries to review their coverage. We often work with people reviewing their part D prescription drug coverage and their Medicare advantage programs to make sure that they’re getting the best deal possible. We work with people to review their specific prescriptions and even where they have their prescriptions filled, to compare and give them unbiased information about their options.
How are the counselors trained?
Our incredible counselors are very highly trained, and they love what they’re doing, and it shows. Each counselor hones their skills over a four-to-six-month period before becoming certified. They begin with a background check, a personal interview to discuss the expectations and their obligations. Then they start with 15 to 20 hours of online training, all at their own pace, followed by a three-day classroom experience. Then they begin mentoring with an experienced counselor until they advanced to the point that they’re able to assist local individuals independently. Testing is definitely a part of the process to confirm their understanding prior to their official certification by the MMAP team in Lansing. After their certification, they continue with multiple hours of training. They train on a monthly basis and annual recertification testing is required. This is a very highly skilled team.
Jason Maciejewski (02:37):
What happens during a typical MMAP counseling meeting?
Kari West (02:40):
Our counselors meet one-on-one with individuals in a private confidential setting. Right now, we’re doing that primarily on the telephone, but we prefer to do that face-to-face and hope to get back to that soon. We ask individuals to bring with them their Medicare card, a list of their medications, the dosage and frequency. We review their options, answer their questions, and continue working with them until we get their situation resolved. Sometimes that can take months. Most of the time people are in and out.
What information do I need to have ready for the counseling session?
We ask that individuals come prepared with their questions, bring a list of whatever you want to talk about, and that will be our agenda for the meeting. It’s always good to bring your healthcare cards with you, any letters that you might have received lately, and we’ll go over all of that with you.
Can a family member or caregiver attend the meeting too?
Kari West (03:38):
We encourage it. Often, it’s good to have another person to ask questions and listen as well. A typical counseling session, we have plenty of room, so it’s all up to the Medicare beneficiary and who they would like to be in on the discussion.
How do you ensure that personal information is protected?
Protecting our client’s personal information is very important to us. From the beginning to the end of the intervention, we take multiple steps to ensure individual’s privacy. We meet in a secure location. We utilize secure communication and we store all of your information on an encrypted computer system. So that access is very limited and reduced to only those who need to see it.
Jason Maciejewski (04:28):
Kari, does the MMAP program combat fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare?
Kari West (04:31):
We do. We help Medicare beneficiaries identify and report Medicare and Medicaid fraud and scams. Maybe someone gets a call offering a big discount on health insurance, or someone says they’re from the government calling for personal information like Medicare cards. Scammers definitely follow the headlines. We work with every individual who calls and to help them review the situation, and if they’d like to report that to the proper authorities.
Jason Maciejewski (05:03):
How does someone contact the Medicaid Medicare assistance program to schedule a meeting?
Kari West (05:06):
It’s easy. All you need to do is give us a call. Across the state of Michigan, call +1 800-803-7174. Or if you’d like to reach the Medicare and Medicaid assistance program here at The Senior Alliance, you can call us directly at (734) 727-2067. At our office, we assist residents from Western and downriver Wayne County. But if you call us and you’re not from there, we might be able to help, or we will help you find the program nearest you.
Jason Maciejewski (05:38):
Thanks again Kari for joining us on inside The Senior Alliance. If anyone has questions about services that we offer, or programs, so you can reach us at +1 800-815-1112, or find us on the internet at thesenioralliance.org
Inside The Senior Alliance as a production of The Senior Alliance and Blazing Kiss Media.