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Retirees who have Medicare, or are over the age of 60 who have difficulty wading through the process of benefit issues now have an advocate in Carroll County.
Terri Root is a certified volunteer counselor through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP, a national program that provides information, counseling and assistance to seniors and disabled individuals, their family members and caregivers. This service is provided at no charge.
Root, who serves as manager of the Carrollton Landmark Apartments, said she has had a number of elderly tenants who have faced Medicare issues. Many have had difficulty making informed decisions on programs impacting their quality of life, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, insurance and other benefit programs, she said.
When she first received a circular in the mail about the SHIP program, she said, “I really got excited.”
Root has contacted Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson and area assisted living facilities to inform them of her availability to provide education and counseling about SHIP. “I contacted the local ministerial association and they’re interested in setting up an informational meeting,” she said.
Tomlinson verified that the need has been great locally for someone in Root’s capacity.
“We have a lot of requests for all kinds of services and that is definitely one of them,” he said. “In the past I have referred somebody needing that type of assistance to one of the Congressional liaisons. Of course, the liaisons are not here in the county every day, but I would try to get them an appointment to meet with a liaison.”
Tomlinson said “it’s good to have somebody locally” who can assist the elderly or their family members with questions related to senior issues. “They will still need to schedule an appointment with her but she is here in Carroll County and available.”
Root hopes eventually to have a regular time period when persons with questions can meet with her either at the courthouse, the local senior citizens center or both. She says Bonnie Bolinger, SHIP Outreach Specialist with Legal Aid of the Bluegrass in Covington, will be assisting in the first few weeks helping her get estabished in Carroll County.
“It’s going to take the next month to build our SHIP here,” Root said, “and hopefully we’ll be able to set sail in August. There is a huge need here.”
The SHIP Program uses paid and volunteer staff to provide personal counseling for Medicare recipients, Root said, to help them through the often complicated and confusing red tape of Medicare, Medicaid, Part D Drug Plans, Medigap Insurance and other public and private assistance programs.
Through federal grants directed to states, SHIP provides free counseling and assistance via telephone and face-to-face interactive sessions, public education presentations and programs, and media activities.
“There’s so much government paper work they have to deal with,” Root said. “Hopefully, we can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Counselors undergo regular in-depth training, she said, to keep them informed on changes to programs, new programs and scams that jeopardize older and disabled adults in Kentucky.
The SHIP Program is funded through a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Older Americans Act.
According to information from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, SHIP has four goals: Educate seniors on health insurance coverage, benefits and consumer rights; provide assistance and education, on a one-on-one basis or through educational forums; protect consumers against fraud or misdirected collections; and to empower consumers to make informed health insurance choices.
Anyone seeking more information on SHIP can set up an appointment with Root, or schedule a informative presentation for a community group meeting may call the SHIP toll-free number at 1-866-516-3051.