Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Medicare insurance decisions made easier by SHINE volunteers

December is full of important dates. There's Hanukkah and Christmas, Pearl Harbor Day and New Year's Eve.

And, for people eligible for Medicare health insurance, there is Decision Day — Dec. 7, the final day they can pick their plans.

So many choices, so little time.

It's not easy to do, but volunteers at SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders), a free program offered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and your local Area Agency on Aging, are there to provide detailed assessment and advice.

You can call them or set up a face-to-face meeting. "Our volunteers are a great crew," said Susan Samson, SHINE liaison for the past seven years. "They served over 13,000 consumers last year."

Each client's needs and issues are unique, Samson says. Each telephone counseling session averages just under an hour.

"It takes a special person to be a SHINE volunteer," Samson said. "We request a two-year commitment."

Volunteers go through three days of training, learning how to find information online and taking a intensive course on Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental insurance plans and long-term care plans. They learn about billings and appeals.

Just as important, volunteers are taught how to listen to clients and how to be patient with a frustrated caller. They learn how to be mentors and how to decipher what a client is really saying.

Because SHINE volunteers must ask personal questions, such as a person's Social Security number, they must pass an FBI background check, Samson said.

The Pinellas-Pasco SHINE district has about 40 volunteers actively counseling at least one day a week.

What qualities make for an effective SHINE volunteer?

"Commitment," Jan Rauer, project manager and SHINE trainer, said.

"You want a person who has an inquiring mind," she said. "They have to like learning. This is an ongoing learning process. Today, Medicare says one thing, then tomorrow, they tweak it."

Rauer speaks from experience. At 72, she is a full-time volunteer, working at least 40 hours a week and coordinating training programs throughout Florida.

SHINE counselors are taught to be objective. "We're not here to sell a particular plan," explained Charles Franckle, 67, a local volunteer coordinator and St. Petersburg native.

He agrees that a good volunteer for SHINE is someone who is a good listener. No particular career or background is necessary to be a volunteer counselor, he said, although Spanish-speaking counselors are always welcome.

"We do have some volunteers who are working," Franckle said, "but the majority are retired."

Fred W. Wright Jr. is a freelance writer who lives in Seminole. You can reach him at travelword@aol.com.

HOW TO VOLUNTEER

For more information about how to become a SHINE volunteer, call Susan Samson at (727) 570-9696, ext. 234, or call the Elder Hotline toll-free at 1-800-963-5337. Or email Sue.Samson@aaapp.org.

HOW TO

CONTACT SHINE

Call toll-free 1-800-963-3557 or email information@elderaffairs.org.

Medicare insurance decisions made easier by SHINE volunteers 11/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's behind the mysterious butt graffiti all over St. Petersburg?

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first butts, perhaps, appeared in April on some steps behind the Sundial shopping plaza.

    A photo of the butt graffiti that has been cropping up around St. Petersburg in the past several months. [CHRISTOPHER SPATA | STAFF]
  2. During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

    A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections
  3. Minority business accelerator launch by Tampa chamber to aid black, Hispanic businesses

    Business

    A "minority business accelerator" program was launched Thursday by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce geared toward helping black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to grow their companies. The accelerator, known as MBA, will provide participants with business tools to cultivate opportunities …

    Bemetra Simmons is a senior private banker at Wells Fargo, The Private Bank. She is also chair of the new minority business accelerator program for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. [Photo, LinkedIn]
  4. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning

    Blogs

    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  5. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.