If insurance talk isn’t your forte, maybe it’s time you try the SHINE program from Elder Options. SHINE, which stands for Serving Health Insurance Needs for Elders, is a free program that assists seniors and their caregivers in navigating through complicated insurance terminology.

“A caregiver has a whole lot on their plate,” says Vidya Hogan, Elder Options director of consumer services. “They may just not have the time or the know-how to go and pick a drug plan for their family member or loved one.”

That’s where SHINE comes in. The SHINE program consists of trained, unbiased volunteers that can listen to what kinds of medications and drug plan a person currently has and show them the options they have.

SHINE volunteers are recruited statewide and have to go through an array of steps to become qualified. After potential volunteers complete the application, they go through a screening process and an interview process. They also have to participate in a level 2 background check before they can begin training, which involves observing and shadowing an experienced volunteer.

Many SHINE volunteers are tech savvy so that they can easily access the correct forms and paperwork needed to get someone started on the plan they choose. It’s imperative that they have no ties to the insurance industry so that they remain unbiased.

“When they counsel a person it’s really important that they lay out the options that someone has and let them make an informed decision, but they don’t recommend products or programs or companies,” Hogan said.

Elder Option’s SHINE program is a free service offered to any Medicare participant who wants to know what their options are. The program is also available to caregivers who take on the responsibility of their loved one’s insurance plan.

The Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) for Part D prescription plans opens on October 15 and goes through December 7. This is the time when one can sign up for, change or leave their plan.

For more information on AEP, contact the Elder Helpline at 1-800-963-5337

By Damaris Lopez