IOWA — For many Iowans on Medicare and their caretakers, Medicare plans can be confusing. Choosing the wrong plan can lead to a provider no longer being in-network, prescriptions costing hundreds of dollars more or travel plans ruined due to gaps in medical coverage.

“Each year it seems there are changes to Medicare, making complicated products and processes even more complex for the consumer,” said Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen. “Fortunately for Iowans, we have more than 350 dedicated SHIIP volunteers across the state trained to help Iowans make informed decisions regarding Medicare plans. In fact, Iowa was an early adopter and among the first states to implement a peer-to-peer Medicare counseling program, initiating the program in 1990.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Iowa Insurance Division’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) by designating Feb. 12 as SHIIP Volunteer Appreciation Day. Joining Commissioner Ommen at the Governor’s proclamation-signing celebration were SHIIP volunteers and staff, including Kris Gross, Iowa’s SHIIP director since the program’s inception 30 years ago, and Kristin Griffith, Iowa’s incoming SHIIP director effective when Gross retires at the end of the month.

“I want to welcome Kristin as our new SHIIP director, who comes to us with great experience, having formerly served as executive director of the Young Women’s Resource Center,” said Commissioner Ommen. “I also want to thank Kris Gross for her 30 years of service to the State of Iowa. I commend her for managing the SHIIP program, whose volunteers have saved Iowans hundreds of millions of dollars over the past three decades. Kris will be missed by our team, by her dedicated SHIIP volunteers and by all the Iowans she has helped. We wish Kris the very best in her retirement.”

“There are very large shoes to fill, but I know SHIIP and its hundreds of volunteers and amazing staff are ready to continue the great work we’re known for,” Griffith said. “I look forward to working with people in communities all around Iowa to help Iowans make informed choices about Medicare and hopefully save them lots of money while doing so.”

Gross reflected on major changes to Medicare plans over her 30-year tenure, including the standardization of Medicare supplement plans in 1992 and the addition of Part D prescription drug benefits and Medicare Advantage plans in 2006.

“Iowa’s SHIIP volunteers are simply the best,” said Gross. “They must constantly learn new, complicated information and they give so much of their time to help their fellow Iowans.”

When asked about recent trends affecting those on Medicare, Gross said many people are delaying retirement and Medicare enrollment past age 65. She said this retirement delay along with changes to employer retirement benefits brings another layer of choices and regulations people need to understand.

“Every day, SHIIP volunteers are helping Iowans with this retirement transition,” said Gross. “And, through our Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program, our volunteers also work with Iowans to prevent, detect and report Medicare fraud. SHIIP volunteers are such wonderful resources for our state, allowing Iowans to receive free, unbiased and confidential assistance to find the best Medicare plan for their personal medical needs. I cannot thank them enough for their service. They are so deserving of SHIIP Volunteer Appreciation Day.”

Iowans are encouraged to visit SHIIP.Iowa.gov to learn about Medicare, Medicare fraud and volunteer opportunities. Iowans can also call SHIIP and SMP at 1-800-351-4664 (TTY 800-735-2942).

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