The Star-Herald

Maine retiree group offers insurance aid

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Probus Club held their regular monthly meeting Feb.15 in the Reed Commons Building at Northern Maine Community College.

Program chairman Dana Crory introduced guest speakers Barbara J. VanBurgel, executive director of the Maine Association of Retirees, and Diane Bailey, MAR operations manager for Medicare and Medicaid issues.

VanBurgel said her job with the association is to provide all members with accurate information on their pensions, insurance benefits, Social Security and health questions. There are 43,000 seniors statewide who qualify to become association members, but presently there are only 14,000 are paid members. One of MAR’s goals is to increase membership, which is $1.50 per month.

Higher membership, VanBurgel said, makes a more effective influence concerning legislation that benefits all enrollees. They spend a large part of their efforts protecting the retirement fund and advocating for rights for the public sector of Maine retirees.

Another of the organization’s goals is to obtain passage of a Maine statute which makes a cost-of-living adjustment a permanent part of the retirement system. According to VanBurgel, 12 percent of the population of Aroostook County are public service retirees. There are only seven part-time employees in the Maine Association of Retirees. Presently there are six bills before the Legislature which would benefit retirees, and which the association is monitoring.

VanBurgel said the number-one request of Maine retirees concerns dental coverage, and added she is available to assist retirees with this and any other questions at her Farmingdale office.

Bailey said she assists with Medicare, Medicaid, prescriptions and dental insurance, including deductibles, out-of-pocket costs and prescription co-pays. She said she is available to interpret all of the Medicare plans, and added Medicare does not pay for long-term care, dental, eyeglasses (except in special cases) or hearing aids.

Because these federal programs can sometimes be complicated, Bailey helps senior public service retirees through the legalities and forms needed.

Medicare will be issuing new cards starting in April with unique identifier numbers. This is being done due to the confidentiality laws.

For more information Bailey or VanBurgel can be reached at (207) 582-1960 or 1 (800) 535-6555.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Probus is welcome to attend any of the meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. at NMCC’s Reed Commons.

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