OFA To Host Public Health Insurance Forums

Health care can be a difficult subject to navigate currently, so the Office For The Aging is offering area seniors guidance through several public forums.

The OFA is set to host three public health forums for seniors beginning Monday. The goal of the forums is to help senior citizens prepare for Medicare’s open enrollment period. Representatives of the OFA, Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage, Medicare Health Insurance Providers and the New York State Health Exchange will be available to answer individual questions. Chautauqua Opportunities, the organization which holds the responsibility of acting as the county’s Affordable Care Act “navigators,” may also be present.

According to Christine Cheronis, senior service coordinator for the OFA and the Medicare health insurance coordinator for Chautauqua County, although the OFA is not a designated part of the new Affordable Care Act “navigator” program, these forums are still important sources of valuable information.

“There is a lot of confusion for people who are on Medicare, or are going to be on Medicare, because they are seeing information about the exchange and thinking that it applies to them – and that’s not necessarily the case,” Cheronis said. “We’d like to explain to those who are Medicare recipients, or soon to be recipients, what their options are because those options are different than for those who are eligible for the exchange.”

One example of the type of person who may benefit from attending the forum is someone who recently turned 65, or will turn 65 soon, who has continued to work, Cheronis said.

“At that point they are presented with the decision of enrolling in Medicare, and if they do, do they stop with employer coverage?” Cheronis said. “Then how does that affect their spouse, who is not Medicare eligible?”

Cheronis said she calls such examples “the gap people,” who are individuals between the age of 60-65 who are not yet Medicare eligible who are going to lose their spouses’ coverage.

“This is why it’s important for us to work side-by-side with the navigators because at that point we need to be able to let them know that there is an opportunity for health insurance for that ‘gap’ spouse through the exchange,” Cheronis said.

Although the Medicare Health Insurance Providers will be present at the forums, they will strictly be there for informational purposes, and will not be selling or enrolling individuals, Cheronis said.

“It’s a good time for seniors to ask the questions that they need answers to,” Cheronis said. “We try to make it easy, and to give seniors peace of mind.”

Monday’s forum is set for 1-3 p.m. at the Findley Lake Community Center, 2883 North Road in Findley Lake. There are also two forums set for Wednesday in Fredonia and Jamestown. The Fredonia forum is set for 10 a.m. to noon at Mason’s Lodge, Route 20 in Fredonia. The Jamestown forum is set for 1-3 p.m. at the Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 15 Francis St. in Jamestown.

For more information, contact an OFA office in Dunkirk at 363-3865, Mayville at 753-4471 or Jamestown at 661-8940.