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SHINE helps with health insurance
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Victim advocates plan a course of action against scammers who prey on the elderly. From left are Gabrielle Wiechec, victim advocate coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco and Pinellas Inc.; Amy Tyson, Pinellas Park’s victim advocate, and Officer Donna Saxer, who investigates many crimes against the elderly.
PINELLAS COUNTY - An elderly disabled woman, who could not afford Medicare’s prescription drug insurance, was paying $450 a month for her blood pressure medication.

She needed direction.

Enter Janet Mills, a volunteer counselor for the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Inc.

Mills helped the woman cut through red tape to enroll in a Medicare program, have her premium paid and obtain drugs at an affordable reduced cost.

This is one of several success stories involving counselors for the agency’s SHINE program, which helps people make informed decisions about Medicare and other health insurance issues.

Since 1993, Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders has assisted more than 400,000 people. The program is administered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

“We had more than 4,000 calls last year just on SHINE,” said Sue Samson, associated planner for the Area Agency on Aging. “That’s a lot.”

Mills, a Treasure Island resident, has served as a SHINE volunteer for more than a year. The former patient advocate attended a presentation on Medicare Part D and decided to volunteer her services.

“That put a bug in my mind,” she said. “I loved the learning that’s involved in the process, and I loved helping people.”

Volunteers spend 10 or more hours a month working out of their homes, at the agency’s office, community centers and hospitals, giving advice to their clients. They received no compensations for their work, but are provided free training.

The next training class is set for Jan. 30. Persons interested in volunteering should call 570-9696, ext. 234 to enroll. The program attracts a variety of counselors, ex-nurses, doctors, etc.

SHINE volunteers help their clients:

• Answer Medicare questions and resolve problems

• Make informed choices about their health insurance

• Save money on their prescription drugs

• Inform them of programs for which they may be eligible

SHINE volunteers also make group presentations on a variety of health insurance topics.

Prospective volunteers must complete SHINE training and be unaffiliated with any insurance company, pharmaceutical manufacturer, long-term care planning company, agency or service.
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