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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Age Out Loud and advocate

RoseannMartocciaHeadshotRoseann Martoccia, Executive Director, LifePath

The theme for Older Americans Month (OAM) for May 2017 is “Age Out Loud.” This theme was designed to give aging a new voice – one that reflects what today’s older adults have to say.

The Administration on Community Living describes the theme as one that “shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.” (See more on the OAM website at oam.acl.gov.)

However, there is much uncertainty about how the current administration’s funding priorities will be accomplished, and it appears that part of the plan is to reduce many programs which help older people.

At the federal level, many programs such as Meals on Wheels, Fuel Assistance and Community Development Block Grant funds have been targeted to be severely cut back or eliminated. The federal administration has also proposed eliminating a popular federally-funded health counseling program known as SHINE: Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone.

This program annually helps more than 77,000 Massachusetts residents – many of them seniors and their families – get free health counseling to sort through the maze of information about basic health plans, like Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, Prescription Advantage, Health Safety Net and other programs. More than 700 well-trained volunteers across the state provide this much-needed service as the only real source of objective health insurance information. Insurance carriers will pitch their own plans – but SHINE volunteers give you independent advice. Medicare has as toll-free number – but can’t possibly get into all the complex details of which health plan makes the most sense for you.

In the 54 communities served by LifePath’s SHINE program, over 40 volunteers assist nearly 4,000 consumers each year, saving $4,801,070 across all Medicare beneficiaries in Western Mass. communities. Through counseling and review of their options, the SHINE program saved each beneficiary an estimated $1,733.24 on average per year in health insurance costs. That’s $144 per month that a person on a fixed income can use on other essentials. Statewide in Massachusetts, SHINE counseling resulted in a savings of $105,116,080 in 2016 as consumers made informed choices about their specific health insurance needs and what was most cost-effective for them.

Let’s amplify the many voices and raise awareness of vital aging issues across the Commonwealth and the nation. Age out loud advocating for the things that are important to you, your family members and older persons in our communities.