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Medicare Counseling Funding Slashed

mrsc-headerThe wildly popular Medicare Insurance Counseling program faces the possibility of curtailing service, just at the time when more than 10,000 people nationwide join Medicare every day. Last year, during the October 15 to December 7 Annual Enrollment Period for Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, four local counselors met with 331 different individuals; those who chose to enroll in a different plan and asked the counselors to make that change for them saved more than $212,000 in medication costs in 2013.

The four counselors who work from Maury River Senior Center are among 17 that Valley Program for Aging Services uses to serve its five-county, five-city service area. Last year the year-round service cost VPAS more than $187,000 to operate.

VPAS has been notified that Federal funding for the program will be cut again this year.  For the 2013-14 year, the service will receive $29,560, about $4,500 less than last year, and down from $83,269 two years ago. “We want to be sure that everyone who asks for our assistance can receive it, but this continuing cut in funding will make it very difficult for a private non-profit like we are to continue without the support of our communities,” says Jeri Schaff, VPAS Director of Senior Services for the Rockbridge area.

Washington and Lee University’s Community Grants Committee awarded $4,420 to help with training expenses and modest compensation for counselors in 2013; United Way of Rockbridge is expected to provide $3,000 for the program in 2014. VPAS and MRSC are turning to the community to request donations from individuals, civic groups and others.

“We want to be very clear that we are asking only for tax-deductible donations, and that we will continue to serve everyone, regardless of their ability or willingness to make a contribution, for as long as we can,” Schaff notes. “Our hope is that those who can afford to help keep this assistance available will consider making a gift in appreciation for the peace of mind this program provides. For those who find they can save money by switching plans, we invite them to consider making a donation of perhaps 10% of their annual savings.”

For more information about Medicare Insurance Counseling, or to make a counseling appointment, interested persons are invited to call Maury River Senior Center at 261-7474.

More online at www.MauryRiverSeniorCenter.org.

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