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Medicare Café to teach ABCs of retirement benefits

By Josette Keelor

The first in a series of morning "cafes" will educate area residents about Medicare benefits.

Organized in partnership between the Veterans of Foreign War in Berryville and the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, the Medicare Café will provide monthly information, beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday at VFW Post 9760 at 425 S. Buckmarsh St., Berryville. Other upcoming presentations will be in the same location on Sept. 25, Oct. 23, Nov. 21 and Dec. 18.

The Medicare Café was inspired by VFW member Rene White of Clarke County, who became a certified counselor with the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program after family and friends asked her to help them with their Medicare benefits.

"They had questions and I didn't know how to answer those questions," White said. "... Some don't know if they have A or B and they don't know if they're suppose to have C or D or something else."

"I actually created my own [Microsoft] PowerPoint presentation so I could understand it myself," she said.

After learning the basics -- "Medicare is an insurance program that you paid into when you worked" -- she became a volunteer with VICAP to teach about the ABCs and Ds of Medicare.

"I decided why not, because I'm already doing it, I'm already helping people," she said.

She thought up the name Medicare Cafe after hearing about the Death Café at the Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville, where program participants can discuss the topic of death without agenda or preconceptions, according to the website http://deathcafe.com/deathcafe/975/

"[Café] sounded like the perfect word," White said, and, for Medicare, "no one was using it."

Thursday's café will inform the public on distinguishing the different parts of original Medicare from those of Medicare Advantage Plus. It also will explain using Medicare savings programs, finding a doctor and finding extra help.

"Those are the top three things that they might not know about," White said. At 11 a.m., Bill Stewart, VFW Post 9760 chaplain, will talk on military veteran benefits, and at 11:30 a.m. Clarke County Commissioner of Revenue Donna Peake will present "Tax Relief for Elderly and Disabled."

From 1 to 4 p.m., White will offer one-on-one counseling to those interested.

The Medicare Café is the first of its kind, said Roberta Lauder, director of resource development for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging.

Medicare can "change every year," Lauder said. "Medicare is very complex, and it can be very confusing."

The café offers "that opportunity to get information for Medicare and hopefully in a setting where people can have a cup of coffee and get a cookie, ask some questions and get some help," Lauder said.

Next month, White plans to talk on the simplest process of getting in-home nursing care. She said each month's café will offer a new topic and provide time for one-on-one counseling.

"There was just so many people that need help," she said, "I can't reach them all if I just do it one on one."

Contact the Agency on Aging at 540-635-7141, ext. 303, or at http://www.shenandoahaaa.com. The official Medicare web site is http://www.medicare.gov.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137. ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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