Canton, Ohio: When Kathryn Plant’s father was new to Medicare, he was overwhelmed and desperate for assistance. Claims payment information was especially frustrating, and Plant stepped in to help.
“Like my father, many seniors have adult children who are willing and able to take on these challenges,” Plant says. “But what about those who struggle alone? In trying to answer that question, I discovered OSHIIP, and the rest is history,” she says.
When it comes to Medicare, people have a lot of choices. Determining the right plan for each person is a mathematical equation based on health, current prescriptions and personal needs. It may even change from year to year.
“Most people, especially those who are new to the program, are overwhelmed, confused and concerned about making the best and most cost-effective choices,” Plant says. This year in Stark County there are 41 Medicare Advantage Plans. “Even with the assistance of an online plan selection program through the website Medicare.gov, people need help navigating the process and understanding how to use the information,” Plant adds.
The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) is a service of the Ohio Department of Insurance, supported by the Department of Aging. “OSHIIP counselors help make sense of the system and provide vital information to help people make the best decisions for their individual circumstances,” Plant says. “We also play a role in advocating for our clients and assisting in the resolution of Medicare-related problems.”
To become a certified OSHIIP counselor, individuals must complete an Ohio Department of Insurance 22-hour course, pass a certification exam, and participate in annual training classes. Plant’s 11 years of experience as a clinical nurse and 28-year career in government health care with the New Jersey Medicaid program also provided the perfect balance of knowlwedge and experience necessary to be an effective OSHIIP counselor.
Plant has served as a SHIIP volunteer for over 12 years – three years in Pennsylvania and nine in Ohio. A resident of Green, Plant helped staff Medicare events in Stark, Summit and Wayne Counties. During the Stark events hosted at Mercy Medical Center, she learned about Mercy Senior Friends and met Terri Gursky, Mercy Senior Friends advisor and Stark County OSHIIP coordinator. “Becoming a member of Terri’s team has been the highlight of my SHIIP experience,” Plant says. “I’m delighted to begin my third year as a Mercy Medical Center volunteer doing OSHIIP counseling.”
Her efforts were recognized in May 2016 when the Ohio Department of Insurance presented Plant with the Ohio Volunteer of the Year award. Plant was chosen for demonstrating compassion and knowledge of Medicare options during counseling sessions with Ohio’s elderly and disabled population.
“This prestigious award from the State of Ohio is a fitting tribute to Kathy,” Gursky says. “Not many people associate laughter and hugs with the word Medicare; however, this is the case many times as our clients leave a counseling session with Kathy in our Senior Friends office. I’m grateful that Kathy Plant chose Mercy Medical Center to devote her time and share her extensive knowledge with our community,” Gursky adds.
Plant says there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the relief that comes when a client is able to make informed decisions relating to their Medicare options. “That response and clients’ overwhelming appreciation will keep me coming back as long as I am able.”
For more information about upcoming Medicare educational events or one-on-one counseling, visit cantonmercy.org/medicare-options or call 330-489-1333.
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