Are you a senior citizen who needs help, but you don't know where to turn?
Help is just a phone call away with the Senior LinkAge Line, 1-800-333-2433, a nonprofit telephone information and referral assistance service that is free to senior citizens, Medicare beneficiaries and their families.
Seniors can call the senior line to find a particular service or to determine what services are available in their geographical area. Senior LinkAge Line can connect a person with transportation, legal assistance and documents, household services, medical information, prescriptions and many other services.
Kathie Phillips (right), senior outreach specialist in Crow Wing and Cass counties for the Senior LinkAge Line, recently helped Elsie Karels of Baxter with paperwork.
Kathie Phillips, senior outreach specialist in Crow Wing and Cass counties for the senior line, said this service helps senior citizens find the resources they need. The senior line is also senior friendly, said Phillips. When a senior calls, he or she will talk to a live voice and there are no recordings.
Phillips said when seniors in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Wadena and Todd counties call the line, a representative at the Central Minnesota Council of Aging in St. Cloud will answer. If the representative at the call center is unable to assist the caller immediately, the call will be transferred to an outreach representative, such as Phillips.
Phillips helps seniors with questions over the phone, visits them at their home and holds clinics at different sites throughout the two counties. Phillips also has outreach clinic hours 9 a.m.-noon the second Monday of the month at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center in Brainerd.
On average, Phillips receives about 120 calls a month, and about 55 percent of those calls are from people who previously have been helped.
The Senior LinkAge Line received 12,737 calls last year in a nine-county area. This was a 75 percent increase from 2003, and an average of 1,061 callers per month. Of those, 76 percent required more than 30 minutes of assistance, 30 percent were between the ages of 65 and 74, and 27 percent were between the ages of 75 and 84.
The call center now serves a 14-county area.
Medicare prescription drug coverage key points
People may choose between at least two Medicare prescription drug plans.
Drug coverage helps pay for the prescriptions a person needs.
Medicare prescription drug coverage is available to all people with Medicare.
There is additional help for those who have a limited income and resources.
The Medicare prescription drug coverage pays for brand name and generic drugs.
People who have Medicare benefits will receive a letter from Social Security and Medicare on the plan in the next few months.
Source: Collected by Kathie Phillips, senior outreach specialist in Crow Wing and Cass counties for the Senior LinkAge Line.
Phillips said volunteers are trained through the Minnesota State Health Insurance Assistance Program. The SHIP volunteer can explain Medicare; review medical assistance; compare supplement insurance options and public programs; explain long-term care insurance; help seniors complete bills, claims and appeals; outline public programs; help seniors understand and track medical bills and forms; and provide them with materials on related topics.
Phillips said a majority of the calls she receives are from seniors seeking assistance with prescription expenses, Medicare and other insurance questions. Phillips also can help people with RxConnect, which involves free or discounted prescriptions. People of any age can call the RxConnect at 1-800-333-2433 to see if they qualify for the service.
Medicare's new prescription drug benefit, which will be effective in January 2006, will need to be explained to seniors, said Phillips.
Phillips and Sharon Notch, outreach specialist for Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties, have helped many seniors with insurance, medical and legal issues. Phillips said recently the call center has received many requests for health-care directives, a legal document to help with end-of-life issues.
Phillips has helped Dorothy Stokke, 81, Baxter, with paperwork regarding her medical expenses. Stokke, who is hard of hearing and has back and leg problems, said Phillips has been a great help to her. Phillips has been helping her for a year-and-a-half.
Another client, Elsie Karels, 89, Baxter, said Phillips has made a world of difference. Phillips helped Karels fill out many forms and helped her get back on her feet.
"She made things so much easier for me," said Karels. "I carry a lot of insurance and she helps me get it all organized."
The senior line is funded through the state and by the Older Americans Act, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Administration on Aging, United Way of Central Minnesota, East Central Regional Development Commission and the Region Five Development Commission.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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