“MIPPA Queens” turn synergy into service for older Oklahomans and individuals with disabilities
Many of Oklahoma Human Services’ (OKDHS) customers operate from very thin monthly budget margins, and any extra money in their pockets each month can ensure the lights stay on, food is in the refrigerator, and they can meet other basic needs, like maintaining their health. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) program within OKDHS’ Community Living, Aging and Protective Services (CAP) helps low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities find financial relief by saving money on Medicare and medicines.
Jean Kidd, Northwest Oklahoma MIPPA Coordinator, says that working in Medicare and Medicines allows her the opportunity to help people not only meet their needs by offering direct services like the “Extra Help” or Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) program that helps offset the costs of prescription medications, but also obtain a healthier lifestyle through referrals to other OKDHS services, community partners or other state agencies.
This was recently the case for one of Kidd’s customers who was referred to her by a local pharmacy.
Last month, Kidd received a call from a customer who has rheumatoid arthritis. The newer, more effective medications for this condition are often prohibitively expensive for many Oklahomans, and this was the case for Kidd’s customer. She described how her weekly injections cost over $1,000 each and there was no way she could afford this, even with her Medicare supplemental insurance.
Kidd helped her complete an application for the LIS, or “Extra Help” program, to reduce her copays and also offered to help her apply for a manufacturer’s program that might further reduce her costs. Later that month, Kidd received an email from the customer that brought joy to her heart.
“I want to thank you again for all the help you provided for me,” exclaimed the customer. “I called the (manufacturer’s support program) and they sent me a copay assistance card. It pays all but $5 of the co-pay for my injections. Thank God He put you in my life.”
While this is everyday work for Kidd and her co-workers, who are affectionately known as “The MIPPA Queens” by their Programs Administrator, Nadine Walter, the services their team provides to customers bring HOPE and create pathways for a flourishing future.
“My co-workers and I walk that extra mile to provide services,” said Kidd. “We are not always able to have success at this level, but we do work hard to help our clients afford their medicine. It is gratifying to not only be able to help someone, but also to receive a note of gratitude.”
The MIPPA Queens collaborate with weekly brainstorm sessions to discuss cases and find alternative solutions for the customers they serve. Southwest Oklahoma MIPPA Coordinator Teresa Ryan credits the Queens’ synergy and “team mentality” as core to their ability to provide pathways to customers.
“It is more than rewarding to assist one of Oklahoma's most vulnerable populations learn about and enroll in the Extra Help program and guide them through the application process for the Medicare Savings Programs,” said Ryan. “These financial relief options provide basic, and many times, literally life-saving medications and other assistance with health care services that enhance the quality and length of life. For me, it has been an incredibly valuable and worthwhile experience to be part of the OKDHS Community Living, Aging and Protective Service's MIPPA team.”
Southeast Oklahoma MIPPA Coordinator, Marilyn Conley, agrees that her team’s synergy helps the MIPPA Queens guide their customers through obstacles that affect their quality of life.
“I recently helped support an individual who needed dentures,” said Conley. “All of her teeth had been removed, and she experienced much difficulty eating. I referred her to an Oklahoma Areawide Aging Agency that covered her county. She called me back three weeks later to express her gratitude for my referral. When you get call like that, it makes this job a ‘feel good job,’ feeling good about what you are doing and feeling good that you helped someone.”
The MIPPA Queens value understanding their customers’ needs and have a great desire to find ways to help, including walking their customers through other application processes. Northeast Oklahoma MIPPA Coordinator, Mary Ann Briscoe, says that modern technology can be very difficult for individuals who have not grown up with computers, and her team’s supportive approach helps their customers’ online process go from panic to ease.
Briscoe recently received a call from customer who was very upset and worried as he attempted to live on just $700 per month. He did not have money for food and was unable to get his Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, card pin number to work. Briscoe had worked with this customer the month prior to help him reapply for Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and SNAP benefits.
The MSP is a state-funded program within MIPPA that helps pay Medicare Part B premiums and, for those who qualify, also helps with Medicare deductibles, co-insurance and co-payments. An incredibly important benefit under Medicare Part B is Preventive Health, which provides services that detect diseases more common in aging individuals, including cardiac and intestinal diseases, diabetes and other conditions. If caught in their early stages, these conditions can be treated much more effectively. MSP also covers most vaccines.
This customer had previously been receiving Medicaid with MSP, but he did not receive a renewal notice, resulting in the cancellation of his coverage. Because of this, Social Security had started taking Medicare Part B premiums out of his Social Security benefits, which reduced his monthly check by $148.50, a critical amount of money that would otherwise help him make ends meet.
Briscoe made another conference call with the customer and an OKDHS Live worker in which they discovered he had been approved for Medicaid and MSP, and he was also taught how to get his SNAP card to work. The OKDHS Live worker also ensured the customer would receive a call from his case worker so they could discuss any additional supports or clarifications needed.
“After the conference call ended, I could hear the relief in his voice and he said to me, ‘I love you! Thank you! Now I can get some food,’” said Briscoe. “These words brought tears to my eyes. I am very thankful we have a MIPPA team that is dedicated to helping Oklahoma’s vulnerable population.”
“The Medicare and Medicines (MIPPA) program is a blessing to so many low-income, Medicare-eligible individuals,” said Walter. “Many Oklahomans make the grave decision daily to buy food or their prescriptions. The MIPPA staff do an outstanding job in explaining the benefits of these programs, determining eligibility, being understanding, and most importantly, taking the time to listen to some of our most vulnerable Oklahomans.”
“CAP staff, like those in the MIPPA program, work each day to find pathways so older adults and people with disabilities can live independent, fulfilling lives,” said OKDHS CAP director, Jeromy Buchanan. “Adaptability and turning challenges into opportunities helps our team improve the quality and length of life for Oklahomans and helps them meet their basic needs and beyond. I’m so proud of our team’s dedication to service and their creativity and innovation.”
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