NEON puts seniors on the Net | NevadaAppeal.com

NEON puts seniors on the Net

RHONDA COSTA-LANDERS

There’s a new program at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center that is shining as brightly as its name. It’s NEON, which stands for Nevada’s Elders On the Net.

With classes that started Nov. 10, instructor Beth Billings is booked through March with seniors interested in learning more about programs designed for them. Billings holds appointments the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, and is adding the third Wednesday to her schedule as well. The sessions are free to the seniors.

“The main purpose of this program is to teach seniors how to use the Internet to get more information that will help them,” said Billings. Billings is also the Medicare adviser at the center.

“This program is for seniors who already know their way around a computer – ones that know how to use the keyboard, the basic function of the computer, and what a mouse is. It’s not for teaching the basics.”

Administrative Assistant Caroline Johnson attended training for the program in Reno several months ago. She helped implement the program at the center.

“The Division of Aging Services provides one computer, printer and a work station,” said Johnson. “We’re still waiting on the station. All of the computers used in the NEON program – there are 20 within the state – are Gateways.”

The Division of Aging Services also pays 50 percent of the setup fee; the center is responsible for paying the monthly Internet access fee.

Wednesday afternoon, Billings’ 1 p.m. appointment was Elaine, who was having problems with accessing her Juno e-mail on her system at home. Each time she would get to a certain point of accessing her account, the system would freeze up. With two calls to the business’ 900 number, and extended waiting time, Elaine hung up and scheduled an appointment with Billings.

Billings was able to determine that Elaine’s system was not compatible. She did not have the right bit format. Elaine, who also has a World net address, is now also signed on with deja.com. Billings was able to guide her through the new account process and, in five minutes, had her ready to go.

“I’m ready to throw my computer out the window,” said Elaine.

“I’ve been waiting to buy a new computer. I want to find out more about costs, equipment and Internet access until I do. I’m going to give my old one to my son.”

Also sitting in on Wednesday’s session was potential volunteer Ruthie Sullivan.

“I’m fascinated with the computer,” said Sullivan. “I got my first computer five years ago. The more questions I can hear asked and answered, the more I will learn and be able to help others with.”

The program can use more volunteers to assist the seniors with their questions about the Internet and using their systems.

“I want the seniors to be able to come in and just browse if they want to whenever they want to,” said Billings.

“When they come in here, I will show them the information we have on NEON, and where they can find information on Medicare. The main page is defaulted to go to the NEON home page.”

Billings has found the most commonly asked questions about Medicare are related to:

– Explanation of Medicare benefits including Part A, B and the new Medicare Plus Choice options;

– Explanation of the coverage and cost of various Medicare Supplemental insurance plans (A through J)

– Sorting through the stacks of paperwork received after any hospital stay or serious illness

– Help filling out applications for state assistance with Medicare coinsurance, deductibles and Part B monthly premium.

The most frequent reasons for denied claims are:

– Ambulance use not considered “medically necessary.” (Note: CC Care Plus, the Carson City Fire Department ambulance insurance plan does not pay either, if Medicare has deemed the ambulance use “medically unnecessary.”)

– The beneficiary relocated to Carson City from another area where they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO plan and did not explicitly withdraw from the HMO before starting to use Medicare services in this area.

In other words, the person must disenroll from the HMO plan when relocating.

– Lab tests submitted with incorrect or incomplete diagnostic codes.

“By coming in here, the seniors can learn to help themselves with these problems by accessing the Medicare site on the computer,” said Billings.

If the seniors need to learn the basics of computer programs and operations, Billings or Johnson will refer them to Western Nevada Community College, which has several classes for seniors (at a discount), or, for simple access to the Internet, the Carson City Library.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the NEON program may call Johnson at 883-0703.