Seniors' options on the table

When Anne Hogan-Shereshevsky wanted information on choosing an HMO, she paid a visit to the Costa Mesa Senior Center.

Twice a month, a volunteer counselor from the Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program is on hand at the center to answer questions about Medicare, HMOs and supplemental and long-term care insurance.

"It's such a great service," Hogan-Shereshevsky said. "There's no consultation, no fees and the volunteers are trained to do this."

Hogan-Shereshevsky, an active member of the senior center, knew the free service had been offered at the center since 1992.

Others may not know and therefore cannot take advantage of the service, said Paul Dorris, a HICAP volunteer.

An elderly woman who spoke to Dorris on Thursday afternoon about Medicare said she was referred to him by a senior center member.

The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she wanted to ask Dorris a question involving a possible problem with her Medicare.

Dorris, who has been a volunteer for eight months, said the questions he is asked vary.

"If you have a question or a problem, we really try to help; it doesn't matter whether you're affluent or not," Dorris said.

The program is part of the California Department of Aging, and the volunteers are licensed by the state, he said.

A person does not have to be 65 years or older to make an appointment with Dorris to talk about health-care options.

In fact, Dorris advises people who are going to turn 65 to make an appointment with him three months before they reach that age.

Something important the elderly should be aware of is the Medicare prescription drug plan, which will change in January, Dorris said.

"It's technical questions about the plan that we can help answer," he said.

The Laguna Niguel resident said as a volunteer he guides and assists senior citizens in making informed decisions on health-care insurance matters.

"I really enjoy being a volunteer, because I'm helping people," said Dorris, a retired insurance company mathematician.

At the Costa Mesa Senior Center, a volunteer counselor is available from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the first and third Thursday of the month. To make an appointment, call (949) 645-2356.

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