A Minute for Health

JOHNSTOWN – The Fulton County Office for Aging’s Medicare Minute program – public presentations that answer questions about the federal insurance – is becoming increasingly popular.

“As an outreach, we go to different locations across the county and discuss different aspects of Medicare coverage,” said OFA Director Andrea Fettinger.

Three OFA workers present material monthly at outreach locations, such as senior club meetings and congregate dining sites. The program started locally in April.

Medicare is a federal government program of hospitalization insurance and voluntary insurance for people ages 65 and older and for certain disabled persons younger than 65.

“We are very fortunate to be a part of this project that is supported by the Association on Aging in New York and CDPHP and provided by the Medicare Rights Center,” Fettinger said.

She said the OFA receives a packet of information every month from the not-for-profit Medicare Rights Center based in New York City and Washington, D.C., on a different topic to discuss for Medicare Minute programs. The packet includes teaching materials, handouts, script and notes, she said.

The short presentations developed by the center are presented on Medicare topics at local sites. Staff from a Medicare Minute host organization, such as the Fulton County OFA, receive and discuss a new Medicare Minute, which they then present at local sites, offering information to their peers, strengthening volunteer participation at host organizations and establishing programming.

“That is the format, going out to the community and addressing people about their coverage,” said Medicare Rights Center Senior Communications Associate Mitchell Clark. “The program has been generally well-received.”

Fettinger said topics covered so far this year have included “Making Medicare More Affordable,” “Durable Medical Equipment,” “Hospital Medical Care Covered By Medicare” and “Home Health Services Covered By Medicare.”

Clark said the public has year-round interest, nationwide, about the subject of Medicare.

The Medicare Minute script provides information on that month’s topic that should be shared with the audience. Teaching materials provide additional information for the volunteers. The handout is the sheet for the audience members to take home, and provides a basic summary of the information presented in the script.

According to the Medicare Rights Center website, the center is a national “consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs and public policy initiatives.”

The center, through Medicare Minute (formerly known as Seniors Out Speaking), works with host organizations nationally to enlist, train and track the outcomes of Medicare Minute staff as they help their friends and neighbors understand Medicare and related health insurance coverage.

“Currently reaching more than 50,000 older audience members each year, the Medicare Minute model builds camaraderie among older adults, strengthens community-based organizations and encourages participants to become advocates for their own health care and that of their peers,” the site says.

Fulton County OFA Aging Services Specialist Rebecca White said Medicare Minute has been well-received locally, although senior citizens are definitely watching their pocketbooks and wallets.

“I believe the main concerns are the costs,” White said.

She said certain people are very concerned about what their co-payments will be as they transition from private health insurance to Medicare.

“We try to do outreach on a regular basis,” White said.

Medicare Minute presentations are currently coordinated by Area Agencies on Aging, State Health Insurance Information and Assistance Programs, Senior Medicare Patrols, senior centers, libraries, labor organizations and other partners in the following states: New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin.

More information on Medicare, the National Helpline about Medicare is: (800) 333-4114. Further information about Medicare Minute presentations can be directed to Fettinger at the OFA at 736-5650.

For more information on how you can begin offering Medicare Minutes in your community, the public can contact Allison Cook, education associate at acook@medicarerights.org or (212) 204-6268.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.