By Rowena Akana
Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA
SAGE PLUS: A Beginning
On June 20, 2002, the OHA Board of Trustees passed a program to ensure that Kupuna will be counseled on signing up for medical benefits they may be eligible for.
The Native Hawaiian Task Force was convened in 1999. The group was charged with developing health care options for OHA to pursue and originally focused on four underserved groups–keiki, ‘opio, kupuna,and underinsured makua. After reviewing many health care options, the task force decided that OHA should, in the least, provide a service to help kupuna sign up for any medical benefits they may be eligible for. OHA will partner with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the SAGE PLUS Program, operated by the State of Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, to develop an outreach program to ensure Native Hawaiian Kupuna are getting all of the Medicare and Medicaid benefits to which they are entitled.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that at least 50% of seniors who are eligible for Medicare Savings programs and/or Medicaid are not receiviing these benefits. It has been determined that over 16,000 Native Hawaiian kupuna are potentially eligible for program benefits. We would like to reach as many of this group as we can.
SAGE PLUS is a program which trains peer volunteers to provide information to senior citizens regarding available programs and eligibility requirements for Medicare and other benefits. The program also ensures that volunteers are linked into a network of providers who assist kupuna in a variety of areas. SAGE PLUS provides the initial training (two 8-hour sessions) and monthly follow-up to peer volunteers on each island. O’ahu volunteers receive weekly follow-up meetings. These follow-up meetings are necessary to keep the volunteers up to date. The volunteers will be trained to
* Explain Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare choices, and Medicaid;
* Explain benefits and coverage;
* Assist in completing and submitting claim forms, and
* Assist in contacting appropriate agencies to gather information and to make appropriate referrals.
At this time, my heartfelt thanks to the Native Hawaiian Task Force members and former members for all the time and effort they put in getting a health project passed to help our kupuna:
Current members: Dr. Thomas Au (Kauka Hui); Kim Birnie (Kauka Hui); Beth Geisting (Primary Care Assoc.); Claire Hughes (DOH, OHE); Richard Jackson (Queen’s Health Systems); Na’u Kamali’i (Papa Ola Lokahi); Kirk Lange (DOH OHP); Pi’ilani Pang (HMSA Uninsured Project); Mary Rydell (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services); Hardy Spoehr (Papa Ola Lokahi); and Paul Tom (HMA, Inc.). Past members have included Dr. Charmin Akina, Dr. Naleen Andrade, Gladys Brandt, Stephen Chong, Beadie Dawson, Sam Millington, Professor Noreen Mokuau, Charles Nakoa, Richard Paglinawan, Robert Oshiro, Sister Beatrice Tom, and Dr. Benjamin Young.
On another note:
“For the Love of Country: A Discussion About Native Americans Contribution to the U.S.” will be held on July 15 and 16, hosted by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the Alaska Federation of Natives, National Congress of American Indians, DHHL, OHA, and Senators Akaka and Inouye.
This effort is being planned to help garner support for the passage of Senate Bill 746, better known as the Akaka Bill. My next column will be devoted to this event–bringing you up close to all the events that took place in Washington, D.C. during this two-day event. Until then, a hui hou!