Ruth Candeub Avins of Edison has received national recognition for marshaling seniors across the state in efforts to save the government billions of dollars and reduce their own medical costs.
Avins, assistant coordinator for the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey, was one of 10 volunteers from across the country to be honored in Washington recently for her involvement in the patrol, which is run out of the Jewish Family & Vocational Service of Middlesex County in Milltown.
JFVS receives an annual grant of $180,000 from the federal Department on Aging to run the program, which educates seniors throughout the state on protecting themselves from fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. It has run the program since 2001.
The SMP develops partnerships with agencies and law enforcement, distributes educational materials, and provides counseling and referrals in suspected cases of fraud and abuse.
Coordinator Charles Clarkson said the FBI estimates that fraud, waste, and abuse cost taxpayers an estimated $220 billion annually; establishing SMPs forms a frontline defense, he said, that has proven effective and cost-efficient.
“Ruth is one of the reasons we are a successful SMP program,” Clarkson said. “She helps set up all presentations statewide, and we are very thankful for all her efforts. She is my longest-running volunteer, and we are very, very pleased she has been singled out for such a big honor.”
The award was presented at the SMP National Conference by Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging. Keynote speaker was Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Avins, who considers herself to be “gainfully employed,” has volunteered for seven years, talking to senior groups in adult communities and engaging in one-on-one counseling. She has also assisted Clarkson in training volunteers and has written and edited The Advocate, the SMP newsletter. “It makes seniors feel good knowing if they call the office someone will listen to their complaint,” she said.
“I’ve gone all over the state and given them some ideas. For instance, some pharmacies ‘short-pill’ people as a way to get additional income. Most doctors and pharmacies are honest and sometimes they make honest errors, but maybe five percent are not,” said Avins, who also prepared JFVS’ newsletter for 15 years.
While honest errors can be straightened out, mistakes and outright fraud not only hurt taxpayers, according to Avins, but reduce funding available for legitimate Medicare and Medicaid costs.