Funding for SHINE medicare assistance program at risk

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A program meant to help seniors navigate different health insurance options is at risk.

Federal lawmakers are currently deciding on whether or not to cut funding for all State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, which includes the Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, a program better known as SHINE.

The SHINE program offers free and unbiased help to people signing up for medicare based on their personal needs, according to Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida. If federal funding is cut from the SHINE program, more than four million Floridians could be missing out on counseling.

“You cannot wade through all of that and decide what to do without some help,” said Jo Marshall, a volunteer with SHINE.

Sam Ciresi, who is enrolled in medicare, counts on SHINE to help him and his wife choose the best plan.

“You really have to have your wits about you in order to understand what’s going on,” Ciresi said. “People can make the wrong choices, and then you’re stuck with it for a year.”

The national program got $47 million from the national government in 2017, according to the National Council on Aging.

President Donald Trump and the House propose cutting those funds to zero. The current funding for the program expires on March 23.

WINK News reached out to Congressman Francis Rooney’s office for more information but has yet to hear back.

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