July 22, 2013

Food for Thought: S.O.S. Medicare - Seniors Out Speaking on Medicare

Author: Retire Council 39 - Frances Hilliard
Source: NYSUT Retiree Services

Food for Thought: Retiree Leaders Speak Out 

By Frances Hilliard

A great number of older Americans today are not well-informed about their health care options under Medicare, and consequently they may be paying more than necessary out-of-pocket costs, or they may be missing out on important aspects of health care such as preventive services. There is a great need among seniors for unbiased, consumer friendly information and support concerning Medicare and related health insurance coverage.

The Medicare Rights Center is a national nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities. The goals of this organization are carried out through educational programs, counseling, advocacy, and public policy initiatives. To help meet these goals, the Medicare Rights Center created S.O.S. Medicare, which brings trained volunteers to community sites where they present programs on various Medicare topics. These programs are designed to provide clear and focused health care coverage information to seniors and to answer questions of concern about Medicare benefits. Topics include Medicare Basics, Prescription Drug Coverage, HMOs and PPOs, Preventive Care, Medicare Summary Notices, and Advance Directives.

NYSUT has partnered with the Medicare Rights Center to provide S.O.S. Medicare volunteers. Volunteers receive ongoing training and support which prepares them to offer presentations to community groups such as senior centers, public libraries, and NYSUT Retiree Chapters. Volunteers are provided with suggested topics, scripts, and handouts, but can customize their presentations for particular group needs and interests.

It was at a NYSUT Retiree Conference in 2011 that I first learned about S.O.S. Medicare, through a conversation with Jay Broad, the S.O.S. Coordinator for Nassau County. After receiving training and orientation, I began volunteering for the program. Although my experience as a nurse has at times proved helpful, you do not need a background in health care in order to volunteer. For me, this has been an interesting and rewarding retirement pursuit, and I am hopeful that some of you reading this will be inspired to become S.O.S. volunteers. For more information about becoming an S.O.S. volunteer, or to arrange a speaker for your community group, contact Jay H. Broad at (516) 781-8685 or e-mail Jay: For assistance with Medicare questions, contact the Medicare Rights Center at (800) 333-4114 or go to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can be reached at (800) 633-4227 or go to

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