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Health News Florida

SHINE Trying To Connect Seniors With Medicare Savings

The Senior Connection Center in Tampa is one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging in Florida that administer the Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders (SHINE) program.
The Senior Connection Center in Tampa is one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging in Florida that administer the Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders (SHINE) program.

There are more than 3 million people who have health insurance through Medicare in Florida and dozens of thousands of those beneficiaries could qualify for help paying insurance premiums, deductibles, co-payments and prescriptions, according to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs SHINE program.

SHINE, which stands for Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders, helps seniors get financial assistance. But Dani Donahue, a liaison at the  Senior Connection Center in Tampa, said many don't use it.

The Senior Connection Center in Tampa is one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging in Florida that administer the Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders (SHINE) program.
Credit Daylina Miller/Health News Florida
The Senior Connection Center in Tampa is one of 11 Area Agencies on Aging in Florida that administer the Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders (SHINE) program.

She said they're trying to reach people who could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

"We talk to people every day that are choosing between their mortgage, their medication and their food and its heartbreaking because how do you choose between those things?” Donahue said. “And so one of the ways in which SHINE can help is help them apply for one of two types of financial assistance."

Those two programs are:

1. Medicare Savings Program - A specialized type of Medicaid that pays the Medicare Part B premium, which could save most Floridians an average of $100 monthly.

2. Extra Help - Also known as "Low Income Subsidy," it can lower monthly premiums, yearly deductibles and co-payments for prescriptions for those with Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. 

Donahue says the center has helped 23,000 Medicare enrollees save money just this year. But there are nearly 35,000 more seniors and disabled Floridians in the five counties they serve -- Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk --  that are eligible for subsidies and not enrolled.

Program benefits are determined through an application and consultation with a SHINE counselor. The Senior Connection Center alone has about 60 volunteer counselors and there are about 400 statewide. 

"We survey our clients every year and often we'll see written on there, 'my SHINE counselor is an angel' and 'you saved my life' and there's no higher pay,” Donahue said.

SHINE is administered through 11  A rea Agencies on Aging  throughout Florida, including the  Senior Connection Center in Tampa.

For more information, call 1-800-96-ELDER or visit floridashine.org.

shine_psa_map_color_2015.jpg
Credit The Florida Department of Elder Affairs

Daylina Miller is a reporter with WUSF in Tampa. WUSF is a part of Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2015 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7