August 13, 2009

Missouri Department of Insurance continues million dollar program to provide free Medicare counseling for seniors

Jefferson City, Mo. - Seniors with questions about Medicare coverage in the coming year will be able to rely on a free, one-on-one counseling program overseen by the Missouri Department of Insurance. The department has renewed its annual contract with the CLAIM program, based in Columbia, which is expected to provide Medicare help and counseling to nearly 90,000 Missouri seniors in the coming year.

The $1,040,280 program is funded by the Missouri Department of Insurance and the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to educate seniors, providing unbiased counseling and information about Medicare. CMS provided $880,280 of the funding, and the Department of Insurance added $160,000.

Seniors can set up a free, one-on-one counseling session to help them make decisions about Medicare, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program and long-term care insurance. Seniors can also get information about low-income subsidy programs available to Medicare beneficiaries. The program uses a statewide network of volunteers, and in 2008 it provided individual counseling to more than 20,000 Missouri seniors or caregivers. Staff and volunteers reached an additional 60,000 people by attending booths at health fairs and other senior events throughout the state.

"While Medicare offers great health benefits to seniors, it can be confusing and the options overwhelming," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP). "CLAIM counselors are here to help seniors make informed choices that best suit their needs and make the process easier."

In addition to its traditional services, the CLAIM program will put additional emphasis in the coming year on reaching seniors in low-income areas of Kansas City and St. Louis.

Huff encourages seniors using Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage to contact CLAIM and review their options during the annual open enrollment periods. The period for Medicare Part D is from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 each year. The period for Medicare Advantage is Jan. 1 to March 31 each year.

To request assistance from the CLAIM program, or to apply to become a volunteer, visit missouriclaim.org or call (800) 390-3330.

About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department's seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.

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