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Counseling During the Pandemic

Pictured: Beth Shyken-Rothbart, Senior Counsel, Client Services & New York Policy.

Every day since the start of the coronavirus public health emergency, the Medicare Rights Center’s helpline counselors have been answering questions and resolving issues for older adults, people with disabilities, and their families across the country. People with Medicare are especially vulnerable to illness, and getting basic care and services––like routine doctors’ visits and prescription drugs––has become a greater challenge during the pandemic.  

Medicare Rights has seen new issues emerge from its helpline counseling over the past six months. Many clients are concerned and confused about enrolling in Medicare for the first time after losing employer coverage; others are helping family members navigate care in skilled nursing facilities; and more callers than ever are asking about their eligibility for cost-saving benefits like Medicare Savings Programs and Extra Help after experiencing a loss of income. Medicare Rights’ staff and volunteers have helped hundreds of clients successfully transition to Medicare, navigate new rules and guidance on skilled nursing coverage, and enroll in critical low-income benefits to help ensure that older adults and people with disabilities can access and afford their care. 

In addition to helpline counseling, several volunteers have been trained to conduct virtual wellness visits by telephone to clients with low incomes whom Medicare Rights has helped to enroll in cost-saving programs in the past. Counselors check in on clients’ current situations, connect them with benefits like food and housing assistance, and make sure they have access to the health care they need. 

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