By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– Trying to choose a Medicare plan can seem overwhelming. There is original Medicare and there is Medicare Advantage. You’ll hear about Medicare parts A, B, C and D.

(credit: CBS)

Already confused? There is help. In Colorado, free one-on-one counseling is just a phone call away.

Most Tuesdays, Kay Heimbuck spends about six hours on the phone in a cubicle at the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). Call her a navigator for ‘SHIP’, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Heimbuck answers questions about Medicare, free of charge.

Kay Heimbuck

Kay Heimbuck (credit: CBS)

“It was a nightmare. I felt as if we were, kind of, shark bait,” Heimbuck told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

That’s how Heimbuck remembers all of the sales calls, emails, and letters she got the first time she enrolled.

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“You don’t know what is legitimate and what isn’t,” she said.

Back then, Heimbuck called SHIP and then took a class, “Medicare 101.” She has come back as a volunteer.

Kay Heimbuck

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh interviews Kay Heimbuck (credit: CBS)

“If I could help one person weed through the Medicare nightmare and help, I would do it,” she said.

“It is confusing,” said Lauren Bell, lead SHIP counselor with DRCOG.

Lauren Bell

Lauren Bell (credit: CBS)

She says there are 52 Medicare Advantage plans and 26 prescription drug plans in Colorado.

“We can help them with understanding the different ways to narrow it down from maybe 52 to just a handful,” said Bell.

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Questions about cost, coverage and how to keep a doctor are typical calls.

“We’re getting about 30 a day right now, but that number just keeps growing,” said Bell.

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“SHIP is not insurance sales, we are information only,” said Heimbuck.

At DRCOG, they serve Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties.

But one phone number, 1-888-696-7213, will get you to SHIP navigators in any Colorado county. You can call Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Medicare’s open enrollment period ends Dec. 7.

Kathy Walsh

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