By Sue Daugherty  - source Sandusky Register

Most people don’t understand their Medicare insurance until they have a need to use it. That is when most realize what Medicare does not cover  when they “thought” it did. This statement is not intended to be a disparaging remark against Medicare. It’s simply a fact.

According to the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, “Medicare was modeled after the standard employer-sponsored health plans of the day.” That was in 1965. Prior to the 1960s, dentistry was not a preventative service. It was emergency appointments.

None-the-less, this doesn’t make hearing loss or oral health care in later life unimportant. It simply makes it an uncovered health care service.

Serving Our Seniors has been piloting ways to make these health services affordable for Erie County residents who have too much income to qualify for “Medicaid” which is different from “Medicare,” but not enough income or the assets to afford hearing aids or dental care.

With our past dental care projects, we have had some extreme cases…senior citizens who have pulled out their own teeth with a pair of pliers - some were successful extractions - others were not. We have met another who was hospitalized from infection in the gums and needed an oral surgeon to perform the extractions. (Still not covered by Medicare.)

With our hearing loss pilot projects we have met people whose quality of life was poor. In part because most people who do not have hearing loss don’t understand what it’s like for those who do. Others tend to get frustrated with those who cannot hear; accuse them of selective listening; or carry on without including the hearing impaired person in the conversation. Worse, the hearing impaired person gives up, disengages and accepts hearing loss and social exclusion as part of “normal aging.”

If you know of an Erie County resident, age 60 or older, who needs dental care or hearing aids but can’t afford them, tell them to call Serving Our Seniors at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856. We recently received a grant to offer easy-to-afford access to treatment. However, it is not free. It is paid back in small monthly payments.

What makes this pay-back program unique is the amount that the senior citizen pays back each month is interest free, and the monthly payment is based on what the person can afford. Some pay back $5 per month, while others who can pay more do pay more per month. The bottom line is the amount that is paid back each month is an amount that does not cause a financial hardship. Therefore, there are some eligibility criteria that must be met to qualify for this program.

The reason repayment is required is because when the grant is gone - it is gone. The repayments are used to fund the next senior citizen who needs a dentist or a hearing aid after all of the grant dollars have been spent.

With 31 percent of Erie County soon to be age 60 or older by 2020, social services have to explore new ways to stretch every dollar they are given.  It’s social entrepreneurism. I believe it will be the difference between social service agencies offering substantive, on-going help – or little help at all.

Q:  I need disposable undergarments, but I can’t afford them.  Who can help me?
A:  Serving Our Seniors accepts donated packages of disposable undergarments from members of our community. If we have your size, you may have some of what we have for free. (We are out of size large.)

The other thing you can do is talk to your doctor about the outpatient surgery to treat bladder incontinence or bowel incontinence.  The out-patient procedure is called “InterStim.” It is covered by Medicare.

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/opinion/blog/8793381