Archive for Sunday, May 21, 2006

Volunteer’s calm presence guides seniors through Medicare changes

May 21, 2006

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The agitated or panicked voices of Kansans come through his phone line.

He says the calls typically start with an overwhelmed person who has heard the worst about the new Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. But by the time he's finished with them, they are usually relieved to find that they can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on their drug coverage. They often thank the patient man on the other end of the phone line.

"In about 25 to 30 minutes, that's when the 'Aha' factor jumps in. They say, 'Oh, that's not so bad,'" said Leo Bracciano, 76, who works at a hot line for Senior Health Insurance Counseling of Kansas. "It will make you kind of feel good, and they do, too.

"It's a surprise to those folks because they have heard a lot of negative talk about Medicare Part D."

Monday was the deadline to enroll without a penalty fee. But Bracciano isn't done. Many people missed the deadline.

A 40-year Lawrence resident and a retired chemical engineer, Bracciano has volunteered for six years on the hot line with two others every Thursday.

They answer all types of questions. Since January, they have helped callers enroll in Medicare Part D via the Internet.

As a volunteer for a hot line provided by Senior Health Insurance Counseling of Kansas, Lawrence resident Leo Bracciano, 76, offers guidance to senior citizens seeking information about the new Medicare prescription drug program. Bracciano has lived in Lawrence for 40 years.

As a volunteer for a hot line provided by Senior Health Insurance Counseling of Kansas, Lawrence resident Leo Bracciano, 76, offers guidance to senior citizens seeking information about the new Medicare prescription drug program. Bracciano has lived in Lawrence for 40 years.

Bracciano grew up in Detroit, graduated from the University of Detroit, and became a chemical engineer for DuPont. He and his wife of 56 years, Nancy, moved around from New Jersey to Clinton, Iowa, to Lawrence when he was transferred to the DuPont cellophane plant in Tecumseh.

Flexel Inc. later bought the plant from DuPont, and Bracciano retired 11 years ago after he worked his way up to supervisor. All of the couple's eight children attended Kansas University, and three still live in Lawrence.

Bracciano has volunteered with KU's Audio Reader program for nine years.

"I had an opportunity to contribute, to do something positive, and to help people whenever possible," Bracciano said. "If we have any talents and capability, it's a responsibility to share that."

He attends quarterly meetings for the Governor's Advisory Council on Aging to address issues for seniors, such as nursing home conditions.

More about Medicare Part D

Although he says Medicare Part D is not saving him any money, many of the people he has helped have incurred savings, so he generally regards the new plan as a good thing.

He considers volunteer work a key component of retired living.

"It's personally rewarding. It's a growth experience, and it's a real opportunity to fulfill your Christian duty," he said. "Plus, there's so much work that needs to be done, and there's so many people that need help and will be appreciative."









Leo Bracciano

Job: Volunteers for a state hot line to counsel seniors on Medicare and other issues. Hometown: Detroit Education: Chemical engineering degree from the University of Detroit. Lived in Lawrence: 40 years Family: Wife, Nancy, of 54 years; eight children, all attended Kansas University, and three still live in Lawrence. Other activities: Volunteers for Audio Reader at KU, member of Governor's Advisory Council on Aging, member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church Hobbies: Exercise, spending time with family, reading. On Medicare Part D: "It's a bit overwhelming for a lot of senior citizens. Really what you wind up with is a substantial savings for most people in prescription-drug cost. It's a surprise to some because they have heard a lot of negative talk about Medicare Part D." Important issue facing Lawrence: "If there's an issue, it would be how to preserve the uniqueness of our community, and how to prevent our center city - downtown - from becoming a ghost town as I've seen it happen back east." Hot line: 1-800-860-5260.

Comments

TheEleventhStephanie 9 years, 2 months ago

I bet he doesn't get verbally abused on a daily basis like the poor suckers who work at 1-800-MEDICARE. I'm sure he's better off volunteering.

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