Volunteer Spotlight: SHIBA Volunteer Scott Opsahl

Whatcom County Volunteer Scott Opsahl recently took the time to answer our volunteer questionnaire. To learn more about volunteering through the Whatcom Volunteer Center, please visit their website.

When did you decide to start volunteering? What attracted you to the SHIBA Program?

I started volunteering for the SHIBA program in the fall of October 2017. I was newly retired and was looking for something constructive to do with my extra time. I was already familiar with the SHIBA program because when I turned 65 I took advantage of the free class on Medicare entitled, Welcome to Medicare, and the option of having an appointment with a SHIBA advisor to deal with my specific questions and to narrow the options available to me.

What do you do in your role?

I volunteer two mornings a week advising people on how the Medicare system works and then help them find adequate and affordable health insurance coverage. SHIBA is an outreach program of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner in Olympia so our services are free, unbiased, and confidential. I now teach the two-hour Welcome to Medicare class that is offered twice a quarter through the Whatcom Community College Community Education Program

Why do you choose to volunteer? What motivates you to stay involved?

Strong communities are created when we look out for one another. No one got to where they are in life without the help of others, whether they acknowledge it or not. In retirement, I have the time to give back to our community. I continue to volunteer because I have witnessed how great the need is. Medicare is complicated and people are easily confused. Since 10,000 people turn 65 every day and become Medicare eligible we have our work cut out for us!

What are you most proud of as a volunteer?

My most satisfying experiences are when I am able to help save people money and relieve some of the stress they feel around health insurance. Sometimes people chose the wrong health plan and are paying more than they need to. Other people may find that they qualify for government assistance that will help them afford their health care. Worries about health insurance are a real burden for many, many people. When I am able to lift some of that burden it has been a good day volunteering.

What do you hope SHIBA will achieve in the near future? In the long term?

A lot of people still do not know about the SHIBA program. We’re trying to get the word out as best we can. Our local number is (360) 788-2725. We’re also looking for people who would be interested in volunteering as advisors. It involves training, testing, mentoring and background checks as well as a commitment to regular advising and monthly training sessions.

What do you wish other people knew about volunteering?

When you help someone in need you both benefit. In giving to others we find more meaning in life for ourselves. Volunteering can expand our worlds and enrich them.

This post originally appeared in the Winter 2022 Newsletter.

What is SHIBA?

SHIBA (pronounced shEEba) stands for Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors. Providing free, confidential, and impartial assistance, advisors help individuals navigate Medicare and their health care choices. With offices throughout the state, SHIBA is hosted in Whatcom County by Opportunity Council and sponsored by the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Volunteer SHIBA advisors like Scott are highly trained and experienced to counsel Medicare-eligible residents of all ages and backgrounds. They help people understand options and offer up-to-date information to make informed decisions concerning health insurance needs.

Learn more about SHIBA at www.oppco.org/shiba/