Are you having trouble loading this page? Click here to view a text-only version.

ashfield.jpg
handoff3.jpg
handoff4.jpg
handoff5.jpg

SHINE: Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone

SHINE graduates 2021Left to right: Lorraine York-Edberg, SHINE Regional Program Director; Joanne Borkowski, SHINE Senior Program Assistant; Dennis Gemme, SHINE Graduate; Jocelyn Melanson, SHINE Graduate; Theresa Ahrens, SHINE Graduate; Diana Balmonte, SHINE Graduate and LifePath Supportive Housing Coordinator; Amanda Joao, SHINE Graduate; Marilyn Denny, SHINE Graduate; Lynne Feldman, Community Services Director; Diana Soler, SHINE Graduate.

This past July, seven people celebrated their graduation from the SHINE program while enjoying a luncheon at LifePath’s office in Greenfield. Each graduate received a bouquet along with their certificate of graduation. SHINE is an acronym for “Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone.” As newly certified SHINE counselors, these volunteers will work in their own communities to provide free and unbiased health insurance information, education, and assistance services to Medicare beneficiaries and adults with disabilities.

As newly certified SHINE counselors, these volunteers will work in their own communities to provide free and unbiased health insurance information, education, and assistance services to Medicare beneficiaries and adults with disabilities.

According to SHINE graduate Amanda Joao, “It’s such important work” and “will make such a difference” for her to have this training in her position as Shelburne Senior Center Director.

Graduate Diana Soler, who will be offering SHINE counseling at the Amherst John P. Musante Health Center, says she is looking forward to “helping elders in the Latino community gain access to Medicare by overcoming any language barriers.”

Lorraine York-Edberg, SHINE Regional Program Director, provided the intensive 60-hour training. “This was a great group of dedicated and concerned SHINE trainees,” she said. “They will be very helpful to Medicare beneficiaries in our service area!”

If you have questions about Medicare options, you can consult with SHINE counselors over the phone or in person at some senior centers and other locations. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the Regional Office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555 or contact your local Council on Aging. If you’re interested in becoming a SHINE counselor, contact Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Massachusetts Regional Director of the SHINE Program, via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 413-773-5555 x2275 or 978-544-2259 x2275.

Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE ProgramLorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE ProgramMost people become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65. Your Medicare enrollment steps will differ depending on whether or not you are collecting retirement benefits when you enter your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) (the seven months surrounding your 65th birthday: 3 months before, the month of, and the 3 months following).

  • If you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you should be automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B.
  • If you are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare by contacting the Social Security Administration.

If you are eligible for automatic enrollment, you should not have to contact anyone. You should receive a package in the mail three months before your coverage starts with your new Medicare card. There will also be a letter explaining how Medicare works and that you were automatically enrolled in both Parts A and B. If you get Social Security retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you get Railroad Retirement benefits, your package and card will come from the Railroad Retirement Board.

Typically, you should not turn down Part B unless you have insurance based on your or your spouse’s current work (job-based insurance).

Typically, you should not turn down Part B unless you have insurance based on your or your spouse’s current work (job-based insurance). If you do not have job-based insurance and you turn down Part B, you may incur a premium penalty if you need to sign up for Medicare coverage in the future. Also, if your job-based insurance will pay secondary after you become eligible for Medicare, you should consider enrolling in Medicare in order to have primary coverage and pay less for your care.

If you are 65 but are not receiving Social Security retirement benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits, you will need to actively enroll in Medicare.

Signing Up for Medicare

Follow the steps below if you need to actively enroll in Medicare.

If you decide to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up for Parts A and/or B by:

  • Visiting your local Social Security office.
  • Calling Social Security at 800-772-1213.
  • Mailing a signed and dated letter to Social Security that includes your name, Social Security number, and the date you would like to be enrolled in Medicare.
  • Or, by applying online.

If you are eligible for Railroad Retirement benefits, enroll in Medicare by calling the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) or contacting your local RRB field office.

Keep proof of when you tried to enroll in Medicare, to protect yourself from incurring a Part B premium penalty if your application is lost.

  • Take down the names of any representatives you speak to, along with the time and date of the conversation.
  • If you enroll through the mail, use certified mail and request a return receipt.
  • If you enroll at your local Social Security office, ask for a written receipt.
  • If you apply online, print out and save your confirmation page.

This article is made available to you with permission from the Medicare Rights Center in Washington DC. The Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

The SHINE program (Serving Health Information Needs of Everyone . . . on Medicare) provides free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the Regional Office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555, or contact your local Council on Aging.

Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE ProgramLorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE Program DirectorThe Medicare Savings Programs, also known as the Massachusetts Buy-In Programs, are a set of benefits administered by our Massachusetts State Medicaid Agency. 

The programs are divided into several categories called the:

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program (QMB/Senior Buy-In)
  • Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB/Premium Assistance)
  • Qualifying Individual (QI-1/Premium Assistance)

All of these programs assist beneficiaries with their Medicare Part B monthly Premium payment of $148.50 and offer assistance with a free Medicare Part D Drug Plan that offers reduced copays for your medications. In addition to those benefits, if you are eligible at the level of the Senior Buy-In Program/Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, the program pays your Part A and B deductibles and copays for Medicare services. 

This program expanded its income eligibility levels by 30% thanks to the hard work of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Governor Baker, and our Legislators.  In January of 2020 and in March of 2021, the state raised the eligibility levels in line with the current Federal Poverty Level. 

See If You Qualify 

If your income and assets are at or below the amounts listed here, you may qualify for help from one of these Medicare Savings Programs.

Income and Asset Limits Effective March 1, 2021
  Income / Month Assets
Single $1,771 $15,940
Married $2,396 $23,920
Prescription Drug Copayments with Extra Help Effective March 1, 2021
  Per 30-Day Supply
Generic $3.70
Brand Name $9.20

Additionally, these programs are not subject to estate recovery since January of 2010, so the state will NOT place a lien on your property to recover benefits following your death.

To apply, it is an easy, one-page application that is simple to fill out, with no verifications.  To get this application you can contact MassHealth at 1-800-841-2900 and request the Medicare Buy-In application and they can send it to you. Additionally applications are available online.

We also have applications available here at the regional SHINE office upon request.  If you need an application sent to you, or assistance completing one, please call us at 413-773-5555.  We are happy to help.

When does coverage begin? If you are eligible for MassHealth Senior Buy-In, your coverage begins in the month after MassHealth processes your application. If you are eligible for the Buy-In Program, in most cases the coverage begins as early as three months before your application month.

The SHINE program, Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone, provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the regional office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555.

Lorraine York EdbergLorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE Program DirectorIf you’re interested in healthcare and looking for a volunteer opportunity, consider signing up to become a SHINE counselor with LifePath. The 2021 Spring Training is starting in April, and there is no better time to get started.

SHINE, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, is a program that provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for all Medicare beneficiaries. Volunteers in the LifePath SHINE program serve communities in all of Franklin County as well as the North Quabbin region of Worcester County and parts of Hampden and Hampshire counties.

SHINE counselors work one-on-one with individuals in their own communities providing information, counseling, and assistance on Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Public Benefits, One Care Plans, and more.

SHINE counselors work one-on-one with individuals in their own communities providing information, counseling, and assistance on Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Public Benefits, One Care Plans, and more. Those interested in becoming counselors should be comfortable working with a population consisting primarily of elders and people with behavioral health challenges and physical disabilities. 

SHINE Counselor Larry Bezio enjoys the volunteer work the program offers, adding that he finds “personal satisfaction to be able to help someone” and “good socialization” with other counselors.

Counselors benefit from ongoing monthly meetings, allowing them to stay up-to-date with new healthcare policies and programs, which “are always changing,” according to Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Regional SHINE Program Director. This year’s training is vast and comprehensive, and will address changes that have taken place in the past year.

The 2021 Spring Training is set to take place virtually via Zoom from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. with a break for lunch, then back to the training from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning Thursday, April 29, 2021. Participants will meet virtually weekdays for 11 sessions. A graduation celebration will take place in July.

If you are interested, want to learn more, or wish to sign up, contact Lorraine York-Edberg, at 413-773-5555 x2275, 978-544-2259 x2275, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about the SHINE Program and other programs at LifePath, visit LifePathMA.org.

Lorraine York EdbergLorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE Program DirectorIf you’re interested in healthcare and looking for a volunteer opportunity, consider signing up to become a SHINE counselor with LifePath. The 2020 Spring Training is coming up in April, and there is no better time to get started.

SHINE, Serving Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, is a program that provides free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling for all Medicare beneficiaries. Volunteers in the LifePath SHINE program serve communities in all of Franklin County as well as the North Quabbin region of Worcester County and parts of Hampden and Hampshire counties.

The 2020 Spring Training is set to take place at LifePath in Greenfield from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch, beginning on April 2. Participants will meet weekdays for 11 sessions. A graduation celebration will take place in June.

SHINE counselors work one-on-one with individuals in their own communities providing information, counseling and assistance on Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Public Benefits, One Care Plans, and more. Those interested in becoming counselors should be comfortable working with a population consisting primarily of elders and persons with behavioral health challenges and physical disabilities.

SHINE Counselor Larry Bezio enjoys the volunteer work the program offers, adding that he finds “personal satisfaction to be able to help someone” and “good socialization” with other counselors.

Counselors benefit from ongoing monthly meetings, allowing them to stay up-to-date with new healthcare policies and programs, which are always changing. This year’s training is vast and comprehensive, and will address changes that have taken place in the past year.

The 2020 Spring Training is set to take place at LifePath in Greenfield from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch, beginning on April 2. Participants will meet weekdays for 11 sessions. A graduation celebration will take place in June.

If you are interested, want to learn more, or wish to sign up, contact me, Lorraine York-Edberg, Western Regional SHINE Program Director, at 413-773-5555 x2275 or 978-544-2259 x2275, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about the SHINE Program and other programs at LifePath, visit LifePathMA.org.

The SHINE program, Serving the Health Information Needs of Everyone, provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the regional office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555.