Medicare pageant educates populace

Bringing elegance back into the lives of an aging generation, the inaugural Ms. Medicare Pageant showcased six Maui and Oahu women who are all part of the Medicare program.

The pageant was held Dec. 20 at the Pacific Beach Hotel Marlin Room in Honolulu with a sold-out crowd of 75.

“I notice a lot of people when they turn 65 and qualify for Medicare, they feel as though it’s the worst day of their life when really it can be one of the best days of their life,” said AlohaCare Medicare sales manager Martha Kholpin, who was behind the operation. Age “65 is a time in their lives when they can still be elegant, relevant, vibrant and engaged in their communities and with their families.”

Contestants competed to earn one of four titles, each of which corresponds to a different type of Medicare plan.

The pageant winners were: Ms. Original Medicare, Laure Bachran (85) of Kaneohe; Ms. Dual Medi-Medi, Terri Rainey (67) of Maui; Ms. Medicare Advantage, Fay Rawles-Schoch (70) of Kaneohe; and Ms. Medi-Gap, Eda Daniel (61) of Honolulu.

“The whole purpose was to highlight that there are different categories of Medicare options by separating them to help people understand,” Khlopin said.

The goal of the pageant was to educate people about Medicare, advocate for it and showcase those who have embraced the plan.

“People who are turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare almost feel as if they lost their place, as if they’re irrelevant. We wanted to highlight them and show just how beautiful they are,” Khlopin said.

The six contestants, aged 60 to 85, participated in personal interviews with four judges. Then, they completed the following categories onstage: Hawaiian Wear, Talent, Evening Wear and On-Stage Question on Medicare. Outfits for the Hawaiian Wear category were provided by Hilo Hattie.

As word got out about the pageant, organizations began to contact Khlopin, asking her to bring the winners to events to educate and advocate for Medicare, including the Hawaii Seniors’ Fair-Good Life Expo, held annually at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.

With 283,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Hawaii, Khlopin said she intends to have the winners of the pageant educate and promote free workshops and online learning tools at these and other, smaller events at which seniors gather.

Khlopin chose to do a pageant in order to focus on the glamour of the era in which many Medicare users came of age.

“The population that are aging into Medicare now were in their 20s when Medicare first started in 1966. They came up in a time when everybody was more into glamour, Marilyn Monroe, and that type of stuff,” she said.

In a time when many of the comments surrounding Medicare are negative, Khlopin said she hopes to change the way it is viewed.

“The ladies are beautiful and shining in their sashes and crowns and give Medicare a whole new branding and image,” she said.

Khlopin began working on the pageant this summer, partnering with Executive Director of Pageant Productions Ann Mata. The two contacted people in the community who work with senior citizen groups and asked for women would be “outstanding representatives” and understood the different types of Medicare plans available in Hawaii, of which there are dozens, according to Khlopin.

“When people turn 65 and transition from commercial plans they’re often very confused because there are so many different options,” Khlopin said.

Former “Hawaii Five-0” actor Al Harrington, a spokesman for AlohaCare, performed the pageant’s opening oli and prayer.

For next year’s pageant, with which Mata has already agreed to help, Khlopin said she hopes to feature contestants from every Hawaiian island instead of just Maui and Oahu. She also hopes to have a preliminary event on Maui, followed by a final competition on Oahu.

She said she would be contacting other public figures who are “over the age of 65 and still working, vibrant, engaged and elegant” to participate in the pageant, such as singer and former Miss Molokai Melveen Leed, singer and pianist Carole Kai and singer Danny Couch.

* Hoku Krueger can be reached at hkrueger@mauinews.com.