After a 25-year teaching career that spanned four states, including six in Arizona, and an additional 14 years as an insurance agent, Carole Phelan could be expected to be enjoying a restful retirement.
But the 73-year-old Ahwatukee resident is anything but retiring, working the last eight years as a Medicare consultant.
Working the last eight years near the front of the Fry’s supermarket at Chandler Boulevard and 40th Street, Ahwatukee, Phelan finds that her smile seems to attract people trying to navigate the confusing array of options that Medicare offers.
“People see me sitting there and I say hello, and they start talking to me,” Phelan said. “They say ‘There’s something about your smile.’ They’re usually confused and I listen to them. Some have health issues and just need someone to talk to about them.
“I like to talk to people. I like to have conversations.”
The Phelans can talk to clients about the new plans through Oct. 14, but cannot accept applications until Oct. 15.
Phelan will be smiling and listening a lot the next two months, as Medicare’s annual enrollment period begins Oct. 15 and continues to Dec. 7. That’s when Medicare recipients have a chance to review their coverage, with the option of changing it for the new calendar year.
She tries to help people cut through the bureaucratese to understand the bureaucracy of Medicare.
“When people turn age 65, one of the most important decisions they have to make is what Medicare plan they want to use,” she said. “There are significant differences between them. They have booklets that go from the floor to their knees. Then they call their friends and their family for advice, much of which is neither informed nor informing. They’re utterly confused.”
So she tries to ease their confusion, and said most of the time the people who seek her advice say, “Wow, this is the first time I understand all this.”
She finds her work somewhat easier than when she taught reading, English as a second language, kindergarten and at the community college level. Her last assignment was at St. John Bosco in Ahwatukee for three years.
“It’s easier teaching seniors,” she said.
A representative of UnitedHealthcare, Phelan said she doesn’t try to sell anything.
“I don’t give a sales pitch,” she said. “I start out listening and teaching.”
Sometimes it’s not even Medicare that people talk to her about.
“Some will say ‘I just don’t like the doctor I have,’ so I pull out the reference materials and find a doctor in the area they might like,” Phelan said. “I try to find out what their life is like and what they don’t know.”
If she can’t help them, she refers them to her husband of 22 years, Bill, an independent insurance broker who represents a number of companies and her partner in Phelan Insurance Agency.