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Program Helps Seniors Understand Health Coverage

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When most seniors retire, they leave their group insurance plans and sign up for Medicare, but there is a lot to learn about the federal insurance program. To help, North Carolina offers free help through the Department of Insurance.

A department counselor is helping Billie Jean Champion, who is retired and turns 65 in a few months. Billie Jean's daughter, Donna, helped her parents get in touch with the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) -- a program that provides free advice to senior citizens.

Medicare parts A and B, Medicaid, Medicare supplemental coverage and long-term care can all be confusing for seniors now handling health insurance on their own. SHIIP counselors explain coverage and options on the phone or in person. Counselors said it is important to know what covers what.

"A lot of people that become eligible do not understand that as well as caregivers that are responsible for an aging person's health insurance," Deputy Commissioner Carla Obiol said.

"Still, I didn't understand what it pays and how it works with Medicare, but they explain it all to you," Billie Jean Champion said.

Senior citizens and their caregivers can get insurance information by looking at their Web site or by calling

(800) 443-9354



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