An avid reader, RSVP* volunteer Don Berg enjoys a good mystery novel, especially the ones he can’t easily solve. He jokes that he needs to be careful about not giving away the answer too early when watching a mystery series with his wife.
Don grew up and went to school in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Business, he moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1984, joining the Aerospace industry. Soon after, he met his wife while they were serving on a jury. (He assures us that he and his wife waited until after the trial to begin seeing each other!) Don was transferred to Sacramento for work, where he and his wife lived until Don retired.
After retirement, they moved to Bellevue, Washington, where they have lived for the last 16 years. During his retirement, Don has enjoyed being able to read a lot and explore the area, taking day trips. One day 11½ years ago, while reading the Wall Street Journal, he came across an article that piqued his interest. It was about Medicare fraud and the Medicare trust fund. The article directed people to contact their state insurance office to learn more.
After contacting the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC), Don was connected to the SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisers) program – and he’s been assisting people to better understand Medicare and health benefits ever since.
A public service offered by OIC, statewide SHIBA volunteers provide people in their communities with free, impartial, and confidential Medicare counseling, education about Medicare health plans, prescription drug access, programs to help pay for Medicare, fraud and abuse, and more.
Don says that many people are confused about medical benefits options as well as when to sign up. He really enjoys meeting with people face-to-face, answering questions, providing information, and helping people move through the process of understanding their options to make the best decisions for themselves and their unique situations and preferences.
Sometimes people have complicated issues that need further research and multiple meetings. While SHIBA volunteers never provide recommendations, they can explain the difference between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans, help people figure out which plans cover their prescriptions, compare the cost of plans, and see if they qualify for additional savings. Often SHIBA volunteers will even help people enroll in the plan of their choosing.
Among Don’s most memorable volunteer experiences is assisting people with disabilities to find health insurance. In 2013, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Washington state for his work counseling people referred through their network. And in 2019, Sound Generations awarded Don the Stellar Volunteer Award.
Don also enjoys giving presentations to groups. Topics include Open Enrollment, Welcome to Medicare, and information to help avoid Medicare fraud. He says that it’s very satisfying when someone comes up after a presentation, letting him know that they now understand their options. OIC’s Sarah Clark says that “Don is an exceptional SHIBA volunteer – his humble demeanor belies the fact he’s one of our top of Medicare advisors and one of our most sought-after public presenters.” (On Saturday, October 23, Don will present his Welcome to Medicare Workshop via Zoom. See more info and register below!)
If you are like Don and enjoy learning, figuring things out, and assisting others, becoming a Solid Ground SHIBA volunteer might be just the opportunity you’re seeking. Initially, there’s a lot to learn. Volunteers receive 10 hours of basic training, 10-30 hours of mentoring from an experienced SHIBA volunteer, and monthly training with ongoing support throughout their tenure.
While mentally challenging, Don says he really appreciates that it keeps him on his toes. He’s always learning, thinking, and staying mentally active as a SHIBA volunteer. Not only does volunteering with SHIBA keep Don mentally sharp, he also works with an amazing, committed group of volunteers who support one another to provide accurate, clear, health benefits information to people from all backgrounds.
To learn more about becoming a SHIBA volunteer, please contact Solid Ground Volunteer Coordinator Lily King at email@example.com or 206.694.6825.
Medicare Open Enrollment: October 15 – December 7, 2021
SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) volunteers like Don Berg can help you…
- Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan (and vice versa).
- If you have Original Medicare: Join, drop, or switch to a Part D prescription drug plan.
- If you have a Medicare Advantage plan: Switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.
SHIBA offers free, unbiased Medicare education and assistance through the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner. For help, contact us at 206.753.4806, 1.800.562.6900, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about SHIBA, visit www.insurance.wa.gov/shiba.
Welcome to Medicare Workshop: Understand your options!
Need help understanding Medicare? Don Berg will present this workshop for current and new beneficiaries, those who will soon be eligible, and anyone who wants to learn more about Medicare health coverage. We’ll discuss various plan options, prescription drug coverage, and supplements. The class is offered in collaboration with Solid Ground’s RSVP and Seattle Central College.
DATE: Saturday, October 23, 2021
LOCATION: Zoom; register for link
STOP Medicare Fraud! Tips to keep you safe
- Protect your Medicare number located on your red, white, and blue Medicare card.
- Treat it like a credit card and don’t carry it with you unless you need to use it.
- Do not give out your Social Security, Medicare, and bank account numbers over the phone or in person, unless you made the contact and you trust the person.
- Remember that nothing is ever “free.” Don’t accept offers of money or gifts for free medical care.
- Ask questions. You have a right to know everything about your medical care, including the costs billed to Medicare.
- Use a calendar to record all your medical appointments and any tests or x-rays you get. Check it against your Medicare statements to make sure your statements are accurate.
- Be wary of medical providers who tell you the item or service isn’t usually covered, but they “know how to bill Medicare” so Medicare will pay.
- Be cautious if a company requests you pay for premiums in cash, pay a year’s premium in advance, or pressures you to buy right away because “it’s your last chance.”
- Check with the Office of Insurance Commissioner to make sure an insurance company or agent is allowed to do business in Washington state.
If you suspect fraud or have questions, call SHIBA’s Insurance Consumer Hotline: 1.800.562.6900. We can help you prevent, detect, and report Medicare and Medicaid fraud and abuse.
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