PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
March 09, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Medicare Counseling Program Marks 25th Anniversary Honors Volunteers

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides Medicare beneficiaries free, unbiased and accurate information on their coverage options, today marked its 25th anniversary by honoring the program's 400 trained counselors, including 200 who are volunteers.

"Medicare is a complex and ever-changing federal program.  Seniors are often unsure of their options and uneasy about making a coverage choice or change without first talking with someone who knows Medicare better than they do," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.  "We have been fortunate that for 25 years our beneficiaries have had trained, knowledgeable and dedicated counselors."

 Approximately 175 of SHIP's 400 counselors attended a conference and recognition event held today at the Robert Wood Johnson Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness.  Individuals cited for special recognition included counselors with more than 10 and 20 years of service (30 and 10 counselors, respectively) and counselors selected by their local coordinators in recognition of their outstanding service.

SHIP started in New Jersey as a pilot program in three counties and, in 1987, became a permanent state program with trained counselors in every county by the end of 1988.  The program was used as a model by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) when it established the national SHIP program two years later.  Today, every state in the nation has a SHIP.

"AARP commends the 25th anniversary of this invaluable program," said AARP New Jersey State President Dave Mollen. "For a quarter of a century, it has helped to make the confusing world that is Medicare less so by providing a helping hand to AARP members, and to all New Jerseyans, in understanding the coverage options they have available to them."

Last year, New Jersey's SHIP counselors assisted 40,000 Medicare beneficiaries with 30,000 hours of personalized local counseling.  Local SHIP agencies, one in each county, also sponsored over 500 Medicare education events - most during Medicare's fall open enrollment period - to help beneficiaries make informed choices about their health and prescription coverage.

SHIP counselors typically meet one-on-one with beneficiaries at a public location such as an office or library.  They walk the beneficiary step by step through the maze of Medicare regulations, medical bills, insurance claims, and health plan choices.  Counselors do not give advice but rather ensure beneficiaries have the facts they need to make choices that best meet their individual needs.

Counselors also help beneficiaries to resolve enrollment and claim problems and help individuals with low incomes and limited assets enroll in programs that cut out-of-pocket healthcare costs for those who meet program eligibility standards.

New Jersey's SHIP counselors, both volunteers and aging and social services agency workers who counsel as part of their jobs, undergo a comprehensive 30-hour training course in order to learn about Medicare and other health insurance programs for retirees and individuals with disabilities.  They also participate in update training sessions held in their counties three times each year.

 

At today's celebration of 25 years of service honorees included:

Volunteer Counselors with 20+ years of Service

 

Al Farkas                     Lumberton, Burlington County

Mary Calkins                Port Elizabeth, Cumberland

James Molette              Port Elizabeth, Cumberland

Marion Listwan            Harrison, Hudson

Lucia Morelli                Monroe Twp, Middlesex

Harry Scher                  Englishtown, Monmouth

Robert Sigman  Parsippany, Morris

Jim McCrudden            Rockaway, Morris

Adele Wines                 Sparta, Sussex

Volunteers Cited for Outstanding Service

 

Frank Coffman Medford, Burlington

Harry Purnell                Princeton, Mercer

Daniel Nitka                 Hamilton, Mercer

Paul Beller                    Monroe Twp, Middlesex

Walter Keyl                  Tinton Falls, Monmouth

Jim McCrudden            Rockaway, Morris

Ron Ouellete                Mine Hill, Morris

George Harlan              Somerville, Somerset

Nancy Kearns              Bridgewater, Somerset

Barbara Forsberg         Easton, PA (volunteers in Sussex after moving from Ocean)

Richard Loberfield        Fanwood, Union

Patricia Walsh              Westfield, Union

Frankie Boykin DHSS SHIP Hotline

Christine Dunn DHSS SHIP Hotline    

 Medicare beneficiaries seeking assistance from SHIP can visit the program's website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/ship.shtml or call the program's toll-free number at 1-800-792-8820.  Individuals in need of one-on-one counseling should call their county coordinator to schedule an appointment.  County coordinators can be reached by calling the following agencies:

Atlantic County
Atlantic County Office of Intergenerational Services
1-888-426-9243

Bergen County
Bergen County Div. of Senior Services
1-201-336-7413

Burlington County
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
1-609-894-9311 ext. 1494

Camden County
Camden Co. Div. of Senior and Disabled Services
1-609-828-3220

Cape May County
Cape May Co. Dept. on Aging
1-609-886-8138

Cumberland County
Cumberland Co. Office on Aging & Disabled
1-856-459-3090

Essex County
Newark Day Center
1-973-643-5710

Gloucester County
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
1-856-468-1742

Hudson County
Hudson County Office on Aging
1-201-369-5280, press 1, then ext. 4258

Hunterdon County
Hunterdon County Division of Senior Services
1-908-788-1361 or 1362

Mercer County
Family Guidance Center Corp.

1-609-924-2098 ext. 14

Middlesex County
Middlesex Department on Aging
1-732-745-3295

Monmouth County
Family & Children's Services
1-732-728-1331

Morris County
Skylands RSVP
1-973-784-4900 ext. 3501

Ocean County
Office of Senior Services
1-800-668-4899

Passaic County
Passaic County Dept. of Senior Services, Disability and Veterans' Affairs
1-973-569-4060

Salem County
Salem County Office on Aging
1-856-339-8622

Somerset County
Somerset Co. Office on Aging
1-908-704-6319

Sussex County
Sussex County Office on Aging

1-973-579-0555 Ext. 1223

 Union County
SAGE Eldercare
1-908-273-6999

Warren County
Warren County Division of Senior Services
1-908-475-6591