The Power of Partnership

Senior couple looking at forms together

MMAP collaborates with local agencies to expand its services

By Gail Allyn Short

One Michigan organization is partnering with community-based organizations statewide to help older adults find answers to questions about Medicare insurance plans.

The Michigan Medicare Assistance Program is a free health-benefit resource that offers older adults and their caretakers unbiased information about Medicare benefits and options. “Our role is to educate the client so they can choose the best plan for them,” says Kitty Glomski, coordinator for MMAP’s Region 9, a 12-county area that includes Alpena, Cheboygan, Roscommon, Presque Isle and Iosco counties.

MMAP relies heavily on a pool of volunteers who donate their time and talents to counsel Medicare-eligible adults struggling with choosing the best plan, navigating enrollment or redetermination, facing fraudulent situations, and more. To make its assistive services accessible to more Michiganders, MMAP collaborates with community senior centers, health clinics, and other organizations to recruit staff members willing to serve as volunteer MMAP counselors, known as in-kind volunteers in such business partnerships.

“Samaritas encouraged me to go through this training because it is helpful to the residents and I didn’t hesitate because…I needed to understand it.”

Kathy MacArthur, part-time service coordinator for Samaritas and in-kind volunteer MMAP counselor
Kitty Glomski, coordinator for MMAP’s Region 9

Glomski says these types of organizations are valuable partners for MMAP because they serve older adult populations. “It’s natural for their staff to become part of our program because MMAP is all about education.” Moreover, one advantage of working with partner agencies is that many older adults may view MMAP counselors at their local senior center or medical clinic to be trustworthy sources of information.

In addition, MMAP targets partners that have no interest in pushing certain insurance plans. “We’re impartial. We’re independent. So, when you come to us, you’re getting an unbiased education about what your options are. We don’t choose the plans for you,” Glomski says.

One of those partner organizations is Samaritas Affordable Living of Alpena, a nonprofit that helps under-served older adults access subsidized and affordable housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Retiree Kathy MacArthur, a part-time service coordinator for Samaritas, is an in-kind volunteer MMAP counselor at her job and at a local senior center. Besides locating housing for her clients, she also helps them tackle any issue that would threaten their ability to live independently such as poor health. “My role is to be an advocate for them and a contact and referral to the services they need,” she says.

Headshot of Cathy MacArthur, a woman with short blond hair and a plaid shirt
Kathy MacArthur, part-time service
coordinator for Samaritas and in-kind
volunteer MMAP counselor

So, when Samaritas offered her the chance to become a volunteer certified MMAP counselor, MacArthur was excited to add the MMAP certification to her skill set. “Samaritas encouraged me to go through this training because it is helpful to the residents and I didn’t hesitate because I was approaching Medicare age myself and felt I needed to understand it.” She adds, “Having the MMAP certification is useful in this job because…these insurances are not easy to understand.”

To prepare to become a MMAP counselor, volunteers attend orientation and undergo background checks. Participants then attend a month-long training session to earn their MMAP certification.

Afterward, MMAP supports volunteer counselors with annual training sessions to help them stay up-to-date on the latest changes to Medicare benefits. And should a volunteer counselor have questions, MMAP is ready to help. “If counselors need more information, they’re supported by our network. If I don’t have answers, I direct them to state specialists, or straight to a hotline that we have through Medicare. So, we get answers,” shares Glomski.

In the end, MMAP’s work with partner agencies helps educate even more community members about Medicare. And, this partnership approach is a way for agencies and clinics that serve older adults to be a greater resource for their clients. Glomski emphasizes, “Knowledge is power.”

To find a local certified MMAP counselor, explore their regional contact information listed by county.