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Manatee seniors upset that SHINE’s light may go out

SHINE, a free program that helps seniors make their prescription drug choices during Medicare open enrollment as well as answer questions regarding other Medicare issues, is being threatened with elimination.

Last week, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would eliminate federal funding for Florida’s SHINE, which stands for Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders. It also would eliminate funding for SHIP, a program in other states which stands for State Health Insurance Assistance Program, said Charlotte McHenry, president and chief executive officer of the Tampa area-based Senior Connection Center, which coordinates the SHINE program in five counties, including Manatee.

I think the cut, quite honestly, is irresponsible. I believe if they understood what the program did in all 50 states they wouldn’t touch it. If they took 15 minutes to see what we do, they would know this program is run by volunteers and the money is all for the materials that we hand out to people that help them.

Sue LaMastro, Manatee County SHINE counselor

“I think the current climate in Washington, D.C., is to look at every budget and look at where they can make cuts and we have to speak out,” McHenry said Wednesday.

“We are asking people to contact their members of Congress and share how important this program is, and urge Congress not to eliminate it or cut any of its funding,” McHenry added.

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