The Medicare Rights Center in Westchester
The Medicare Rights Center’s Westchester programs offer a wonderful community success story and a national model of volunteerism. Through these programs—and particularly the Seniors Out Speaking Medicare Minute program—Westchester residents are provided with accurate and helpful information about their Medicare rights and benefits. This includes information on topics such as Medicare Options, How Medicare Works With Other Types of Insurance, Medicare Low-Income Programs, and the Part D Prescription Drug Benefit.
Westchester County, north of New York City, has a mixed demographic with both higher- and lower-income residents. Medicare Rights is committed to providing information and counseling to help meet their needs. In all programs in 2010, volunteers in Westchester County reached 15,000 individuals with Medicare information and assistance. The array of Westchester programs build camaraderie among older volunteers and their audiences, strengthen community-based organizations, and encourage participants to become advocates for their own health care and that of their peers.
Through the award-winning Seniors Out Speaking (SOS) program, the Medicare Rights Center works in Westchester County—as well as in New York City, and with host organizations nationally—to enlist, train and track the outcomes of SOS volunteers as they help their friends and neighbors understand Medicare and related health insurance coverage. In Westchester County—and now in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey and other New York communities—SOS volunteers visit senior centers, faith-based institutions, public housing projects, clubs, and other sites to speak about health care topics that interest people with Medicare and their families. Volunteers also inform people about low-income assistance programs for which they may be eligible.
Since 2005-6, the Medicare Rights Center in Westchester has developed and introduced a new series of programs to train members of the community to become health advocates for themselves and their peers. Today, SOS volunteers lead a series of four interactive Health Advocacy Workshops that help participants understand how to advocate for their rights with health care professionals. The current series includes the following workshops: “Speak Up for Yourself,” “Being Safe in the Hospital,” “Building Your Health Care Team,” and “Who Will Pay for Your Home Care?”
In addition, SOS volunteers periodically lead Hour-Long Programs in Westchester County to educate audiences on Medicare Choices, the ABC’s of Medicare, and How to Save Money With Medicare.
The Medicare Rights Center and the Westchester Library System (WLS) have partnered to establish Senior Benefits Information Centers throughout Westchester County. These centers, based in libraries, help older adults and their caregivers navigate Medicare and enroll in public benefits.
Visitors to the information centers gain access to the Westchester Library System's print and online health care resources. Visitors also receive guidance from Medicare Rights-trained WLS counselors, for instance on choosing a Medicare drug plan or appealing a denial of coverage. Finally, visitors learn about public benefits for which they or their families might be eligible, including food stamps (also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), programs to help with the cost of prescription drugs, and the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE).
Senior Benefits Information Centers are located in public libraries in Yonkers, Shrub Oak, Tarrytown, Mount Kisco, Peekskill and New Rochelle.
If you are interested in volunteering for any of these Westchester programs, please contact us.
Pat Esposito, Coordinator of Westchester County Seniors Out Speaking, has enjoyed two successful careers. Her first was in nonprofit management, where she advocated on issues such as economic development and labor/management relations. The second, as a legal derivatives specialist for international law firms and global investment banks, led her to a position as Vice President for the Royal Bank of Scotland, from which she retired in May 2010. Ms. Esposito has an undergraduate degree in Business Management, and was cited in the 1984-85 edition of “Who’s Who of American Women.”