MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES LOOK TO HICAP FOR COUNSELING/ADVOCACY
In Contra Costa County, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) provides accurate and objective counseling, advocacy, and assistance for Medicare beneficiaries and their families regarding Medicare, supplemental health insurance, Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare prescription drug plans, long-term care insurance, and other health coverage plans.
HICAP is a federal and state funded volunteer-based program sponsored by the Contra Costa County Area on Aging, the California Department of Aging, and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Outside of California the program is called State Health Insurance Assistance Program (or SHIP).
HICAP counselors are highly trained volunteers registered with the state of California. They are available for one-on-one appointments at senior centers, community centers and other locations throughout the County for free, impartial counseling to help people understand their options for Medicare and related insurance, to help them choose the best plan for their needs, to help them resolve problems with bills and claims, and to help ensure that they’re saving money or getting the Medicare-related financial assistance to which they are entitled.
As Medicare advocates HICAP counselors write letters and make telephone calls to assist in getting disputed or denied Medicare-related medical bills paid. HICAP assists with billing Medicare supplemental plans and helps beneficiaries understand their rights and how to obtain them.
In addition, HICAP counselors give public presentations on Medicare, including a free Welcome to Medicare seminar. These are particularly useful in helping people decide which choices are best for their individual health care needs. The seminars provide information about how other health insurance, such as employer plans, retirement plans, VA, Tricare for Life, and COBRA, coordinates with Medicare.
Topics Covered by HICAP Counseling
✦ Health care consumer rights
✦ Medicare benefits and rights
✦ Private Medigap (Medicare supplemental) insurance
✦ Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO, PFFS (private fee-for-service) health plans (Part C of Medicare)
✦ Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D of Medicare)
✦ Long-term care insurance
✦ Information about health plan choices and health care rights
✦ Financial assistance programs for those with limited means for Part B, the medical coverage premium, and Part D, the prescription drug benefit 1
✦ Advocacy for denial of medical coverage, medical care, and problems with payments to providers
✦ Referrals for free legal help and representation at Medicare appeals and administrative hearings
✦ Other resources available in Contra Costa County
✦ Community education, including Welcome to Medicare seminars
Who Should Contact HICAP?
✦ Persons who are about to turn 65 or otherwise become eligible for Medicare (or those assisting them)
✦ Persons who have a question or a problem regarding their Medicare rights
✦ Persons who are denied medical services
✦ Persons who have a problem with a bill or a claim
✦ Persons who need information to make an informed decision regarding health plan selection
✦ Persons who need to review prescription drug or Medicare Advantage plan options during the fall annual enrollment period
✦ Persons with limited incomes who want to find out about eligibility assistance