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2003 Press Releases
Morton Plant Caring Partners Launches Free Medicare Counseling

CLEARWATER, Fla. (March 21, 2003)---Understanding insurance coverage can be challenging to many people, particularly older adults. To address this need, Morton Plant Caring Partners, the hospital's volunteer organization, is offering free Medicare and health education, counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers.

Coordinated with the assistance of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs' SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) program, the Medicare counseling effort uses specially trained hospital volunteers to assist the community with problems or questions on Medicare, Medicare HMOs, Medicaid and supplemental insurance policies.

"Through this program, our volunteers can provide members of the community with more opportunity to receive the best possible health care services through their Medicare coverage," said William Clarke, president of Morton Plant Caring Partners.

Morton Plant Caring Partners volunteers complete Department of Elder Affairs training and the hospital provides an office and telephone for private and confidential counseling free of charge. The program's volunteers educate consumers and empower them to resolve problems and make informed decisions on health care and insurance issues. In addition, SHINE has a strong community education and outreach component. The Morton Plant Caring Partners team focuses on promoting good health habits, beneficiary rights and consumer protection.

The program was created to provide benefits counseling services not provided by Medicare and to help consumers determine if purchasing a supplemental insurance and/or Medicare HMO policy is appropriate for their needs. Caring Partners also offers a comparison of specific policies to help individuals make more informed decisions.

Through the SHINE program and Morton Plant Caring Partners, consumers can learn tips on better understanding and organizing Medicare bills, statements and paperwork. Morton Plant Caring Partners are also available to provide referrals to resource personnel who can assist the patient with any unanswered questions.

Medicare counseling benefits include help with the following:

* Submission of Medicare and supplemental insurance claims

* Reimbursement for denials

* Prevention of overpayment

* Follow-up if in fact there has been overpayment and retrieval of those monies

* Access to applications for discount prescription programs

The program will help consumers understand Medicare's appeal process and assist them in deciding whether to file a Medicare appeal. If the claimant is unable to pursue an appeal on his or her own, Caring Partners can refer the individual to the appropriate agency for assistance.

Counseling sites are now open at Morton Plant Hospital. For information about the free Medicare counseling service or to schedule an appointment, contact Morton Plant Caring Partners at 727/461-8010.

Established in 1916, Morton Plant Hospital is a 687-bed facility dedicated to improving the health of all it serves through community-owned health services that set the standard for high quality, compassionate care.

Established in 1916, Morton Plant Hospital is a 687-bed facility dedicated to improving the health of all it serves through community-owned health services that set the standard for high quality, compassionate care.

In 2002, Morton Plant was named one of America's Top 50 Hospitals, according to AARP Modern Maturity magazine and a 100 Top Hospital in the "Solucient 100 Top Hospitals: Cardiovascular Benchmarks for Success" study for the fourth consecutive year. Morton Plant was also named to the 100 Top Hospital Overall list in 2002. In 2000, HCIA-Sachs (now Solucient) named Morton Plant as the only hospital in the country to achieve 100 Top Hospital status in four categories - cardiovascular, stroke, orthopaedic and overall.

In 2001, Morton Plant Hospital joined forces with H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute at the University of South Florida, Tampa to provide research and services for cancer patients. Morton Plant also offers a family practice residency program in conjunction with the University of South Florida. Morton Plant Hospital is located at 300 Pinellas Street, Clearwater, Fla., 727-462-7000.

Contact: Phoebe Ochman/Beth Hardy

Morton Plant News Bureau

727 / 461-8117 Phone

727 / 468-7586 Pager