Deb Arnold
Deb Arnold
The Social Services department at Jay County Hospital offers a wide array of services to patients and members of the community.
While the primary service it provides is discharge planning to make sure patients have what they need when they leave the hospital, another important aspect is Medicare counseling.
And Deb Arnold is the go-to resource for all Medicare needs.
Arnold, the director of social services and utilization review for JCH, has been with the hospital for 27 years. For at least 20 of those years, she has worked with the Seniors Health Insurance Program, or SHIP.
The program, Arnold said, is run by the Indiana Department of Insurance through federal grants and offers free information on issues with Medicare.
“We don’t sell insurance,” Arnold said, “we don’t recommend insurance, but we simply help people through the maze of insurance.
“When people are new to Medicare — whether they are turning 65 or they are getting Medicare because they meet the disability requirements — we can explain the Medicare supplements.”
One of those supplements is the Part D drug program.
Along with Linda Metzger, another SHIP counselor at the hospital, Arnold can enroll patients in Medicare’s drug program. She said the medication a patient takes is entered into a computer, which will then bring up a number of plans to fit their needs.
“Everyone is different depending on the medications they’re on,” Arnold said.
 With the ever-changing healthcare regulations and guidelines, Arnold’s job is evolving as well. She gets training twice a year — once in the spring and again in the fall.
While she and Metzger are trained to know the ins and outs of the Medicare, she has a supervisor she can consult if she has any questions. If something arises she hasn’t dealt with in a while or something has changed, help is only a phone call away.
“We have the training and we have good backup,” she said. “The information we get from SHIP is something that we use almost on a daily basis in our jobs.
“It has been invaluable training.”
One of the biggest challenges she has faced recently was the addition of Medicare Advantage plans, which have replaced traditional Medicare. Also, the inception of the drug plans was difficult for her at first.
“A few years back, the first year we had to enroll people in drug plans was a nightmare because nobody had one,” she said. “Everybody needed to sign up for a drug plan.”
Medicaid, she said, used to cover prescriptions, but the option was not available for Medicare beneficiaries so they were forced to pick up a drug plan.
Some of those recipients, Arnold said, may not be able to afford prescription coverage. It is then, she added, she may be forced into a difficult conversation with an individual or a couple who don’t have the resources to get the coverage they need.
“It’s just so hard,” she said. “It’s the individuals who are just above the income to get any extra help that are really struggling.”
One of the positives to being a licensed social worker, she added, is the satisfaction of knowing the community has a resource available to get information regarding Medicare.
“I can make sure that people have the information they need to make informed decisions.”
The SHIP counseling, she said, is by appointment only because of how time consuming the process may be. She added it could take up to an hour or two to peruse all of the paperwork. Appointments can be made through the hospital.
Additionally, Arnold and her department offers a Prime Time program, which the JCH website says is “for those age 55 and Better!”
The program — which Arnold said has an activity at least once a day, including a monthly breakfast, Euchre, dominoes and bingo — provides socialization and health education opportunities for its members.