This year, like last year, we put together a public service announcement about a recurring DFCS computer glitch that kicks seniors and disabled Georgians off of Medicare Savings Programs. DFCS computers can’t update their systems with the annual cost-of-living adjustments until April. This means that people who get help paying their Medicare premiums receive notices that their assistance will be cut off because their incomes are suddenly too high. DFCS reports that they manually update their files, but this leaves our clients frightened by the erroneous notices and at risk of believing they are no longer eligible and losing the benefit altogether.
Last year our public service announcement turned into an Augusta Chronicle article. We had at least 30 seniors call in one day for help. In addition, some seniors who were unaware of the benefit at all find out about these programs from the public service announcement and enroll for the first time with our help.
This year the announcement was posted in papers across the state and mentioned on Georgia Public Broadcasting, which has coverage statewide. A 95-year-old woman read our notice in the Greensboro Herald Journal in a small town of 3,500. Prior to reading our article, she did not know she was eligible for the Medicare Savings Program-but after calling our Benefits Hotline, we helped her enroll in that benefit, which will save her over $5600 per year, as well as food stamp assistance.
Fran Montelaro is the Benefits Hotline paralegal who helped this client, who Fran remembers being “extremely humbled and excited” upon finding out about this program. “For me, it means speaking to someone as if she would be me at 95 years old and being treated with kindness and empathy.” Fran was recently referred to at a national aging conference in DC as the “client whisperer” because of her extraordinary abilities to relate to and solve her clients’ problems.