Pharmacy Students Help Medicare Patients via Call Center

APRIL 19, 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
The Medicare Care Lab at Roseman University of Health Sciences is staffed with knowledgeable pharmacy students willing to answer patients’ questions about insurance plans, prescription coverage, and financial assistance.

The students were trained through the Nevada State Health Insurance Assistance Program on Medicare basics, information logging, and the best ways to respond to questions, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

One second-year pharmacy student named Agafe Saguros helped a cancer patient find out that she was eligible to save nearly $1000 a month through a state assistance program.

“It doesn’t really hit you until you actually see that,” Saguros told Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Another student was able to help a patient save almost $600 a month.

Student adviser Leiana Oswald, PharmD, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice, told the paper that around 20 students have been trained on how to help Medicare patients through the call center, but usually 3 to 5 students are in the lab at any given time. The lab is open year-round, which helps target Medicare’s prescription drug coverage gap.

If a student needs extra help answering a question, he or she can connect the patient with a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor.

“Every call is a new experience because everybody has different issues and they have different problems,” SHIP volunteer Debbie Letts told Las Vegas Review-Journal.

One exciting new development is that the students will receive a $50,000 award this month through a grant competition. The money will go toward equipment like dual headsets, as well as contract work with SHIP so that students and counselors can work together more.  

Dr. Oswald told the paper that the hope is to have students schedule medication reviews for patients and offer more services at health fairs.

She thinks the program is especially important because it not only helps patients better understand Medicare, but also serves as a learning tool for students. She argued that pharmacists typically don’t get enough Medicare training in pharmacy school.