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Virginia Commandery assists in Medicare awareness (April 2014)


BERRYVILLE, Va. - If there's one thing the Virginia Insurance Counseling Assistance Program (VICAP) wants you to know about Medicare, it's that Medicare is not a welfare program.

"I find some people don't want to sign up and take advantage of their Medicare benefits because they think it's a welfare program, or they think that they they're taking away from the government,” said Rene White, an officer of the Commandery of Virginia of the Order's US Grand Priory and a volunteer with VICAP. “Instead, [Medicare is] money that you've actually already paid…to take care of yourself when you get older.”

Medicare is often mistaken for Medicaid. Medicaid is a health services welfare program set up by the U.S. government for low-income citizens. White also said residents are sometimes hesitant to take advantage of their Medicare benefits because the forms can be confusing - especially to a first timer.

"The reason why we have The Medicare Cafe is to make it easy to understand Medicare, and all the different parts: A, B, C, D," White said, listing off examples of where the forms can get confusing.

White is a volunteer for The Medicare Café, a free session available to residents that reside within The City of Winchester, and Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah or Page counties. Other Hospitaller activists within the Commandery are also voluntarily giving their time and service in order to assist within the community, especially those who are under-privileged and need guidance in such matters.

While the café was specifically designed for residents in the Shenandoah Valley, White says anyone can access personalized health insurance counseling at no cost, through their state’s health insurance assistance program. "We’re helping ‘save the farm’,” said White. “We're helping people keep their farms so that they can take care of themselves and pay for their medical insurance."

Medicare is funded through social security, and is available for individuals who are 65 years or older, or those who have a qualifying medical disability. "If a person has low income, and they're having trouble paying for their Medicare costs, there are options available to them,” White explained. “There's extra help, there's Medicare savings programs, and we can help walk them through it and help them apply for those programs."

Shenandoah Valley residents are encouraged to attend the free sessions at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9760 Building in Berryville. One-on-one counseling sessions will be held afterwards, but interested individuals must make an appointment for those by calling 540-551-5615. The Medicare Cafe is hosted by volunteers through the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, VICAP and VFW Post 9760.

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