Charles Fogarty, director of the Division of Elderly Affairs, told the story of a Pawtucket senior who visited that city’s senior center when it came time to renew his health care program.
The man had been paying $47 a month for his medication and assumed nothing would change if he continued with the plan. He thought he was good, but thankfully the man asked for the advice of Rhode Island Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) volunteers. They discovered the cost of the mediation would soar to $900 a month if the man stayed with the plan. They showed him the alternatives and the man switched plans without being hit with higher medication costs.
The SHIP volunteers at the Pilgrim Senior Center can all tell similar stories.
Collectively, the seven volunteers, some having worked in the program for more than 12 years, and center staff saved the 900 people they counseled $174,000 in last year’s enrollment period. The savings is calculated on what participants would have paid had they stayed with the plan they had been enrolled in.
Those savings were mentioned Monday morning as Mayor Scott Avedisian and City Council President Joseph Solomon joined Fogarty to honor the seven Warwick volunteers. But it was the human touch that officials focused on.
Avedisian thanked the volunteers for showing people through the enrollment process. Fogarty also mentioned their caring and how statewide SHIP volunteers have saved Rhode Islanders millions of dollars.
“It’s because of you,” he said.
Solomon, who will assume the role of acting mayor when Avedisian leaves the office of mayor on May 15, said his wife Cynthia has visited the Pilgrim Senior Center and is looking to volunteer.
“Without volunteers the city wouldn’t be able to do what it is doing,” he said.
The Rhode Island SHIP is part of a national partnership to help consumers make informed health care choices. SHIP volunteers provide one-to-one, unbiased counseling to seniors, adults with disabilities, families and caregivers. The program is designed to help seniors and adults with disabilities understand healthcare cost and coverage. SHIP
counselors can discuss Medicare, Medicare Part D, supplemental insurance, Medicare Advantage plans and other health insurance options. Counselors assist beneficiaries in making the most appropriate choice for their healthcare needs.
Monday’s ceremony was a bittersweet celebration.
“This is a farewell tour for both of us,” said Fogarty of Avedisian’s departure after more than 18 years as mayor to head the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. Fogarty is retiring from the Division of Elderly Affairs on July 1.
“I have worked with them for a couple of decades,” Senior Services Director Meg Underwood said of Avedisian and Fogarty. She underscored her admiration for the men and their concern for others.
Fogarty had citations to the seven volunteers: Sylvia Dulgarian, Barbara Hackett, Betty Pacheco, Lorraine Kilpert, Eric Robertson, Jacqueline O’Rourke and Thomas Feeley.