Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol at AgeOptions is celebrating 25 years of empowering consumers throughout the state to prevent, detect and report health care fraud. We work with 15 statewide agencies that help carry out our message through outreach and one on one counseling.
Over the summer, Illinois SMP's Marina Silva had a chance to speak with Erin Weir Lakhamani, former SMP Director from 2008 to 2012. Erin is now Senior Researcher at Mathematica.
Without advocates and leaders like Erin, the SMP program would not be the leader in healthcare fraud prevention that it is today. Please enjoy the interview.
Marina Silva (MS): What is your personal history with SMP?
Erin Weir Lakhamani (EWL): I served as the statewide coordinator for SMP from 2008-2012. When I started, I was the only SMP staff member at AgeOptions, and during this time the program really grew from one grant to two grants. The second grant that we received really developed the volunteer engagement aspect of the SMP program. AgeOptions hired two additional SMP staff members (Jason Echols and Peg Tully). Jason really developed the volunteer coordination within Illinois and during this time ACL also had an increase in volunteering nationally. Our partners at Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging and AgeSmart also really kicked off volunteer recruitment in those areas.
MS:What are you most proud of with SMP?
EWL: During this time, I was excited to be a part of this new aspect of the program. There were so many amazing volunteers with different backgrounds who brought so much experience, passion, and creativity. All of this helped boost the SMP program in so many amazing ways. The volunteers and the entire AgeOptions staff was always so passionate.
MS: What do you hope to see in the future with SMP?
EWL: I have always been impressed with the creativity and adaptability. SMP really works with the ever-changing world, and SMP is very responsive and adaptive to all of the changes. The need of SMP to be educated and supported due to scams is CRITICAL. SMP provides key support for those who are experiencing fraud or may encounter fraud – this is the best proof that the need for the program is critical.
The Medicare and Medicaid programs are complicated and this opens the door to scams. People need SMP to help people untangle the mess once they are in it, and learn how to prevent being a victim to fraud. SMP embodies one of the most important things in the community, which is collaboration. SMP collaborates with so many agencies across Illinois and nationally – these partnerships are vital. It is such an important aspect and enables empowering and culturing communities. There is always something to learn within the SMP world.
On behalf of the Illinois SMP Program, I would also like to personally thank Erin for creating a foundation for our SMP Program. Without the hard work and dedication of our past directors, we would not have nearly the success that we have now.