Field Lessons: An Interview with Kris Gross

Retiring Iowa State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Director, Kris Gross, reflects on her experience with MIPPA outreach and SHIP over the last 30 plus years. Kris shares insights on the increasingly complex nature of the Medicare enrollment and eligibility issues facing beneficiaries and the individuals that counsel them, the key role partners play in finding and enrolling locals into Medicare Savings Programs, and Iowa’s efforts to utilize technology to reach low income populations.

Listen to the full recording

Kris Gross
Kris Gross, outgoing Iowa SHIP Director

Listed below a few highlights from our conversation along with several conversation place markers.  

Describe the Medicare landscape back in 1989 and the decisions facing a typical Medicare beneficiary back in the day. (Begins at 1:15 on the recording)

SHIP was originally created to help beneficiaries understand the wide variety of Medicare supplement plans available at the time. With the advent of Medicare Part D, the Affordable Care Act, [and] Special Needs Plans the choices are much more complex and the need for thorough training more important than ever.  

Kris shares, in her mind, the most important resource that SHIP provides to its statewide network of counselors. (Begins at 11:05 on the recording) 

Iowa offers a counselor support line which provides subject matter expertise to counselors during business hours. This real-time support ensures that volunteer and staff counselors have access to accurate information and raises the integrity of the program and reduces the stress on counselors in the field.

Talk about the state’s effort to locate and serve hard to reach populations like Native Americans, individuals with disabilities, and rural residents.  (Begins at 32:54 on the recording)

Iowa SHIP has had a long relationship with the Meskwaki Settlement, which is the only Native American community; that longevity has built a degree of trust which is the backbone to most outreach efforts. Much of Iowa is rural, so we look to community health centers to provide access to the greatest number of residents because the centers are in the towns that act as the county seat. Additionally, we’ve worked with community action agencies and we have come to rely heavily on our volunteers who are usually established trusted members of their community and great community connectors.  

What past Center for Benefits Access resources have proven to be the most valuable to you and your network? (Begins at 47:00 on the recording)

The ability to share and learn from each other is the most valuable resource. Hearing from other states on how to implement a new MIPPA outreach effort or tackle a problem whether at a conference or on calls is of great value to the network.  For example, we know we have a lot to learn to improve our social media presence and we will turn to our fellow states and resource centers for help on this front.

The Center for Benefits Access thanks Kris for her years of dedicated service and appreciates her taking the time to share her knowledge and lessons learned. Kris, good luck as you write your next chapter! Know you will be missed.