As a Health Alliance community liaison, Lora Felger works to make navigating Medicare a seamless process from start to finish. Doing that means the Liaison must know and understand the community she serves. Felger was born and raised in western Illinois, in the small town of Silvis to be exact. Afterlife took her to Nebraska to raise her family, she found herself back in her old stomping grounds working as the Community Liaison for Health Alliance in all the western Illinois and eastern Iowa counties of her youth.
“I’m living proof that you can go home again!” chuckles Lora. “I had this amazing job with this incredible company land in my lap at a time when I was ready to make a change.” Felger has always had a heart for serving the older generations which she credits to her parents making her and her brother work in the family’s funeral home from a very young age. “My dad actually asked me to go out and direct traffic on 1st Avenue Silvis so a funeral procession could pull out when I was 14. I gave him one heck of a stink-eye for that one! Then I called city hall and asked them to send a squad car. You could do that in a small town back then.”
In November of 2019 Matthew Barnes will begin his 26th year of educating Illinois’ seniors and their families about Medicare and the insurance options available to them. “I learned early in my career that I was helping our clients with something that went far beyond insurance. Those that I come in contact with know that I truly care about their wants and needs when we first meet AND as the years go by. It means getting to know them personally. The transition to Medicare can be a challenging one in so many aspects. Sharing the knowledge I’ve gained and continue to learn makes that transition an easier one.” “My love for my chosen profession stems from the close relationship I had with my grandmother as a child. That, coupled with my strong desire as a veteran to serve those who have served us faithfully through the years, gives me a perspective unique to my position.”
As a team, Health Alliance and First Mid Insurance Group bring 73 years of home town, home state experience to the area. Health Alliance’s corporate office is located just down I74 in Champaign. Health Alliance offers and powers Medicare Advantage plans giving people 65 and over an alternative to Original Medicare throughout the state of Illinois as well as Iowa, Indiana, Washington and parts of Ohio. It also offers individual and family plans and employer group health insurance to some of those areas.
In 2019, First Mid Insurance Group Senior Solutions celebrates 40 years of sharing their expertise and ensuring that their clients have the insurance plans that best meet their needs. Their team of professionals, throughout the state of Illinois, pride themselves in providing top notch service throughout their client’s experience with the agency.
Barnes and Felger both agree that a strong partnership is vital in making sure the individual needs of the seniors they serve are met in the most cost-effective means possible for the consumer. As a company, Health Alliance spends the early months of every year surveying its members, brokers, and providers to make sure that plan designs meet the specific needs of the clients in each area it serves. “Plans that work perfectly for someone in Danville, IL or Yakima, WA don’t necessarily work perfectly for someone in Galesburg or Kewanee and vice versa,” Felger points out. As the “boots on the ground” in their communities, Barnes and Felger make it their mission to be part of the senior serving community, to talk to professionals in their markets and understand the unique challenges they are facing. They work to attend as many community outreach events as possible in their towns and really listen to the people they serve. How are things going? What roadblocks are you facing in your healthcare? Do you feel you are being served at the level you deserve?
“Really, sometimes, it’s the one-on-one conversations I enjoy most, whether it’s a situation where somebody has a question that I can help answer or a need that I can help fill by connecting them with a community resource,” Felger said. “Part of my job is to know what’s out there, who is good at doing what, and making those referrals for people. You always get their story first, and then you can really listen and figure out what’s going to be the best thing for them.”
When people feel like they share a relationship and are part of a community with a health plan that listens to what they have to say, the entire healthcare process becomes a little less confusing and a little less daunting. More rewarding! That’s what Felger and Barnes are teaming up to accomplish in the west-central Illinois area.
A great example of this teamwork and a desire to be helpful and responsive to the needs of their communities is the Prairieland Senior Focus group. Founded by Felger & Barnes, this gathering of like-minded professionals meets to interact and educate one another about all facets of life experienced by our senior communities and those that serve them. Those individuals from the VNA, the Knox County Health Department, the Alzheimer’s Association, senior living facilities; care coordination organizations like Alternatives, funeral homes, health care facilities, senior publications and the like meet to strengthen the ties that bring us together in serving a valued part of our communities.
We wanted to start a collegial networking group that works together to handle the individual needs of the people we meet every day. We built a team that knows the other members of the group have their backs with the questions and needs we all address daily. “We connect people, plain and simple,” says Barnes. “Home health care, veterans’ benefits, financial needs? We’ve got people for that.” In addition, the group started hosting a community health fair for seniors in the Galesburg area. “We all agreed it was a great value for us to do this for the people of Galesburg and the surrounding communities and we are excited to do it again next summer even bigger and better!” says committee chair Joel Newman from Western Illinois Home Health Care.
Health Alliance and First Mid Insurance Group know health insurance and Medicare can be hard to understand and navigate. They bring the information and assistance to you in as convenient and local a way as possible. Matthew meets with clients throughout this area, many times at one of First Mid Bank & Trust’s branches here or in their homes, if more convenient. Lora spends several days a month in Galesburg, Kewanee, and Monmouth. “Where ever they want me, I’m there!” says Lora. Medicare is complicated! Matthew and Lora hope that at the end of the day, they’ve helped make things a little clearer for everyone. The two want to ensure that whomever they interact with is a little more confident in making a good recommendation or answering a question with more confidence and moving the people they serve closer to the best healthcare plan for their unique needs.