Maximizing Volunteers in Benefits Outreach and Enrollment
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Maximizing Volunteers in Benefits Outreach and Enrollment

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November 9, 2010

Like many organizations, Senior Resource Alliance (SRA) – one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Florida that is also an Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) – draws on volunteers to help the elderly and persons with disabilities in Brevard, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole County access benefits and services. Read on to find out how SRA created a remote work system for volunteers that has not only helped enroll target audiences into benefits, but also helped to retain strong volunteers.

Who was the target audience?

Persons with Medicare potentially eligible for key benefits, including the Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP)

What did they do?

SRA actively recruits volunteers with an interest in serving seniors and sufficient computer skills to become benefits counselors within Florida's SHIP Program - Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE), which is provided through the Florida’s AAAs. SRA utilizes a multimedia campaign to inform the community about the program and recruit volunteers; however, word-of-mouth through the counselors themselves often brings in many enthusiastic and committed new counselors.  After successful completion of training, SHINE volunteers give information and assistance to Medicare consumers, their families, and caregivers by conducting counseling on Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, prescription drug plans, and long-term care planning.  They also deliver educational presentations in the community and participate in health fairs and outreach events.

In 2009, SRA received funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) to implement the Medicare Beneficiaries Outreach Assistance (MBOA) program to assist low-income, rural, minority, and limited-English speaking elderly with LIS and MSP applications. MBOA coordinated well with SHINE, and 8 of the approximate 60 SHINE volunteer counselors agreed to do extra work, above and beyond SHINE, for the MBOA program, reaching out into the target areas.

One significant barriers to enrolling the MBOA target audiences into benefits is a lack of transportation to enrollment sites/events. SRA has attempted to mitigate this barrier by equipping volunteer counselors with laptops and wireless cards, thereby enabling them to work remotely and bring their counseling services into the targeted communities. Counselors establish site agreements with community-based facilities in the target areas, and leadership from within helps to open doors. The MBOA grant covers funds for the equipment and reimburses the MBOA counselors at an established unit cost per enrollment, plus travel and supplies. The volunteers enroll clients on-site, electronically, or by fax; make a copy of the signed forms; and submit these forms with an invoice to SRA.   

What were the results?

SHINE counselors in the four-county area assisted almost 5,000 clients in 2009 and hope to reach their goal of close to 6,000 in 2010.  The 8 volunteer SHINE counselors who took on additional MBOA work assisted over 830 clients with enrollment in LIS and MSP in less than 5 months! The MBOA counselors appreciate the reimbursement for their extra work; however, they continue to devote an additional 16 volunteer hours or more every week to the SHINE program, as well.  It is a devoted service with inherent rewards – seniors helping seniors make informed choices with cost savings and improved quality of life.

For more information

Sarah Lightell, Chief Operating Officer
Senior Resource Alliance
988 Woodcock Road, Suite 200
Orlando, FL  32803
(407) 514-1816
Lightells@SRAFlorida.org

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