Community Gem: Kettering’s Connie Blum helps seniors navigate confusing Medicare signup

Connie Blum
Caption
Connie Blum

KETTERING — Connie Blum’s busy season is about to begin.

As Montgomery County’s coordinator for the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, she knows that the number of calls she receives will spike with the start of Medicare’s open enrollment on Oct. 15.

What the 90-year-old volunteer doesn’t know is just what kind of help each caller will need. With some Medicare beneficiaries, a 5-minute phone call will do the trick. Other times, she will spend two or three hours with a caller over the course of a few weeks.

“I enjoy the problem-solving element and getting my head around all the details,” said Blum, a retired social worker who has been a volunteer for 23 years and was named OSHIIP’s counselling coordinator of the year for 2021.

Trained volunteers like Blum help people understand Medicare benefits, review their options during open enrollment and assist with appeals. The state’s hotline for help is 1-800-686-1578.

As county coordinator, Blum is contacted at least 100 times per year, and she either helps callers herself or refers them to others. The most puzzling cases are given to OSHIIP employees.

This year, a pair of the people she has helped come from her own family: Blum has three daughters, including twins who turn 65 in October. They had the same questions as everyone else, said Blum, who lives in Kettering with her husband, Stanley.

Family or not, Blum’s position requires her to explain coverage and recommendations in the simplest terms. While the volunteers don’t make coverage choices for the callers, the goal is to help them make good choices for themselves.

Debbie Marchi, a Vandalia resident who was also a SHIIP volunteer, nominated Blum as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem. Blum is not only kind and knowledgeable, but also intuitive.

“Connie knows how to look at a person, understand their situation, and realize how much information they can swallow in one sitting,” Marchi said.