SHIBA needs bi-lingual volunteers to assist seniors

On August 5, approximately a dozen local residents assembled at RSVP’s Medford headquarters’ conference room for a special training session. Christy Harms, Administrative Assistant for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Jackson County, began by distributing official forms the participants would complete with each client contact. 

“SHIBA counselors are  required to meet bimonthly,” explained the group’s spokesman Dick Heintz. “We all undergo thorough training to qualify for this.”

Most at the conference table possessed the silver tresses, ready wit, and store of knowledge typical of well-educated retirees. To their credit, they’ve acquired  a computer savvy that might provoke envy in their grandchildren. Evident in all—the deep love of community, and  genuine desire to serve their fellow citizens.

Federally mandated, SHIBA started in 1992, Heintz continued. “It’s State Administered; the State provides the training.” The funding comes from a grant through  the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid  Services. Nationwide it’s known as the Senior Health Insurance Program, or “SHIP” for short. Oregon’s entity identifies itself by the  acronym for Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance.

To qualify for low-income prescription drug assistance, individuals on Medicare cannot exceed a gross monthly income of $1,354.  For married couples, the limit totals $1,822. However, regardless of income level, or assets they own, persons approaching the point of qualifying for Medicare, should contact SHIBA, the volunteers advised. The system’s complexities indicate that most will benefit greatly by SHIBA counseling..

Bill Herzog co-staffs a post at Rogue River’s Community Center Tuesday mornings by appointment. He stressed the essential need for timely action in applying for the appropriate Medicare  prescription drug programs. “People who wait past a certain period, will most likely lose significant amounts of money,” he cautioned.. 

Heintz concurred. “They should definitely contact a SHIBA counselor before the year of their 65th birth month,” he added. “Those still working after age 65 need to know their options. Our counseling service is free.” 

Open enrollment for certain Medicare health benefit categories takes place from November 15 through December 31 each year, Herzog said. That’s when they expect to be quite busy with appointments.

Another volunteer staffs a cubicle for scheduled inquiries at ACCESS in Medford.  Still others field questions through appointments at the RSVP office on Ellendale, or by telephone. The number listed in SHIBA’s brochure is  (541) 857-7780. It’s also the one to call for information on volunteer opportunities. Under the Rogue Valley Manor, the RSVP web address is www.retirement.org/rvmcs.

Heintz noted the special need for SHIBA volunteers who can speak both English and Spanish. Unfortunately, on occasion Spanish-speaking families must take their children out of school classes to come serve as parents’ or grandparents’ interpreters.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent

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