Friday, August 28, 2020

NCDOI’s Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) recognizes outstanding service to Medicare beneficiaries State and Regional winners announced

Aug 28, 2020

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has announced the 2020 winners of the Seniors Health Insurance Information Program’s (SHIIP) statewide and regional awards for their outstanding work in providing free, unbiased counseling about Medicare and other health insurance issues to seniors in North Carolina.

SHIIP is a division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance that offers free, objective information about Medicare, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other health insurance issues.

“I am humbled by the dedication and service our SHIIP Coordinators provide to all local senior citizens and disabled Medicare recipients,” said Commissioner Causey. “It is my honor to congratulate these award winners for their tireless efforts.”

Here are the honorees:

SHIIP County of the Year:  SHIIP’s coordinating site in Catawba County is the West Hickory Senior Center, where Vickie Blevins is the Coordinator.  This county has a population of approximately 158,000 with 18% of the population being age 65 or older.  Catawba County is the home to the city of Hickory which has a robust history in the furniture industry.  In addition, the county is growing in the telecommunications industry.  Given these dynamics, the site has the potential to see individuals from various socioeconomic backgrounds.  In addition to the Senior Center, the Library system has become a solid community partner and the branches serve as alternative counseling locations.  The SHIIP in this county also developed partnerships with three dialysis clinics in Catawba county.  Successful partnerships with the Hispanic and Hmong communities are being cultivated as well.  In the past year, an employee of the Federally Qualified Health Center serving Catawba County, and fluent Hmong speaker, completed SHIIP training and is providing SHIIP counseling services to the Hmong community. The work done by the SHIIP representatives in Catawba county is top notch and the county has a long history of great volunteers.  Each volunteer work to their strengths, allowing them to make a valuable contribution to the program, and most importantly, they show up to do the work with confidence and joy.

SHIIP Coordinator of the YearSusan McGuire is the Senior Care Coordinator for Resources for Seniors serving the Wake County Office on Aging.  Wake County has a population of approximately 1.1 million with about 147,000 Medicare beneficiaries.  Wake County provides Medicare and one on one SHIIP counseling in at least 7 different locations.  Since 2013, Susan’s leadership of the SHIIP program has been both passionate and innovative.  This past year, she designed a new educational program which she called Medicare 2020.  This program highlighted many of the recent changes to Medicare.  Susan also recorded a You Tube video at the Northern Wake Senior Center about the COVID-19 waivers and changes impacting Medicare recipients.  The You Tube video link was shared with SHIIP counselors and clients.  In addition, a You Tube video focusing on how to use Telehealth care was recorded and ran on the Northern Wake Senior Center Facebook page.

Susan is active in recruiting new volunteer counselors.  A total of 10 new counselors who came from a variety of professional backgrounds were added over the past year.  Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, Susan has managed to retain four counselors in Wake County.  Susan is described as having a wealth of talent, energy and information and has proven to be an exemplary leader who shows tremendous patience, understanding and compassion in her work.

Mickey Hanula Volunteer of the Year Georgia Richards is our Statewide Volunteer of the Year winner from the Piedmont Region.  She became a SHIIP Volunteer Counselor June 20, 2016.  Since then she has been a dedicated Volunteer counselor assisting clients as requested by her local Coordinator and repeat clients who sometimes reach out to her directly.  Georgia is a great team player and possesses great interpersonal skills.  Georgia was considered the “go-to person for SHIIP” during the transition of outgoing and incoming SHIIP Coordinators last year.  She was instrumental in ensuring that the Iredell County SHIIP office had a successful Open Enrollment Period last year.  Georgia has demonstrated a heart for helping people with their Medicare questions and situations.  Her versatility and flexibility are always on display as she was called upon last year to conduct a Medicare 101 class with short notice to prepare.  The presentation was professionally done.  The Iredell County SHIIP Coordinator stated that “we couldn’t have made it without Georgia – she literally saved Iredell County SHIIP from sinking”.

Jim Long Outstanding SHIIP Service Award: Each year, the N.C. SHIIP recognizes an individual or organization for their continued support and endorsement of SHIIP, to improve Medicare education and outreach for the citizens of North Carolina.  This recognition comes in the form of the “Jim Long Outstanding SHIIP Service Award”, named for Jim Long, the Insurance Commissioner who created the N.C. SHIIP in 1986.

This year’s winner is Dr. Julie Cooper – Assoc. Prof. of Clinical Sciences at High Point University.  In partnership with the N.C.  Department of Insurance’s SHIIP, Dr. Cooper created a certificate elective course for Pharmacy students at High Point University to become certified SHIIP counselors.  These students are enrolled in SHIIP’s Online Counselor Certification and Training course and must successfully complete this training before certification is granted.  The idea of marrying the pharmacy background of these students with Medicare beneficiaries needing to choose a Part D Prescription Drug Plans has produced a winning outcome both to the students and Medicare beneficiaries in the Triad community. 

The elective course, now in its third year, provides an opportunity for these pharmacy students to review a Medicare beneficiary’s Part D plan to find the best prescription drug coverage for the lowest cost.  Students can share their pharmaceutical knowledge coupled with the Medicare tools to help Seniors find appropriate prescription drug plans. In 2018, the HPU Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy students were recognized for saving clients more than $47,000 on their Part D Medicare plans as SHIIP counselors.

We are appreciative of Dr. Cooper’s and HPU School of Pharmacy’s untiring efforts and willingness to successfully partner with the NC DOI SHIIP Division to expand and enhance services to the community.

Commissioner Causey congratulated the following Regional honorees:

Central Region County of the Year                         Johnston County

Northeast Region County of the Year                      Martin County

Southeast Region County of the Year                      New Hanover County

Piedmont Region County of the Year                      Stanly County

Western Region Coordinator of the Year                 Amanda Garrison, Burke County

Piedmont Region Coordinator of the Year               Lauren Heavner, Lincoln County

Northeast Region Coordinator of the Year               Jewel Winslow. Perquimans County

Southeast Region Coordinator of the Year               Selena Beamon, Wayne County

Western Region Volunteer of the Year                     Kristy Hunt, Alexander County

Northeast Region Volunteer of the Year                  Alicia Browning, Bertie County

Southeast Region Volunteer of the Year                  William “Bill” Kozel, Pender County

Central Region Volunteer of the Year                      Susan Howlett, Wake County

While SHIIP has a small paid staff, it relies on county coordinators to help organize nearly 1,000 trained volunteers to provide Medicare counseling in all 100 counties in North Carolina.

For more information, contact NCDOI’s SHIIP Director, Melinda Munden at

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