Ohio Insurance Department, Hospitals Form Patient Assistance Partnership

October 21, 2004

The Ohio Department of Insurance is utilizing Medicare experts to counsel Medicare beneficiaries about their insurance coverage as part of a pilot program at two Ohio hospitals, Insurance Director Ann Womer Benjamin announced.

Trained and certified Department and hospital volunteers, called SHIP Mates, at Fremont Memorial Hospital and Barberton Citizens Hospital provide Medicare beneficiaries (and their family members) with benefit and coverage information and can answer insurance-related questions during the patient’s hospital stay.

The program, administered by the Department’s Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP), is reportedly the first of its kind spearheaded by a state insurance agency. It is also being considered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for possible nationwide implementation.

“SHIP Mates is a win-win opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries and hospitals,” Womer Benjamin said. “This program allows hospital staffs to solely focus on the patient’s medical needs while a readily accessible SHIP Mate counselor can handle the patient’s insurance concerns, relieving patient and hospital staff anxiety sometimes associated with the complexity of insurance issues.”

SHIP Mates receive extensive training that focuses on hospital procedures and Medicare benefits and claims. During a hospital stay, patients who are Medicare beneficiaries are greeted by a SHIP Mate and assisted with insurance concerns. Follow-up services and a comprehensive insurance kit are available to beneficiaries when they leave the hospital.

Since 1992, OSHIIP has reportedly saved Ohio Medicare beneficiaries millions and has counseled more than 248,000 people. The program’s 800 trained volunteers, located throughout the state, and staff educate consumers about Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance and other health insurance matters.

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