CARTERET COUNTY | N.C. Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey began a visit to Carteret County with information about a state program that is helping seniors make wise decisions that can save them money on health care insurance.
Causey kicked off a meeting Friday morning at the Leon Mann Senior Center in Morehead City with information on the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program known as SHIIP.
North Carolina was the first state to start a SHIIP program and Causey said it provides a valuable source of information about Medicare and health insurance from an unbiased source.
“It has been a blessing that has helped seniors understand their health insurance, provided information of different Medicare supplement plans and details on their prescriptions plans,” Causey said in an interview prior to the meeting’s start.
There are more than 1,000 volunteers across North Carolina who are trained SHIIP representatives who meet with seniors to address questions and concerns they may have. The Department of Insurance also has a call center in Raleigh that seniors can call with questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The toll free number is 1-855-408-1212.
In his comments to those in attendance, Causey thanked the SHIIP volunteers and noted that the program has also helped North Carolina’s seniors save money.
“Last year, the SHIIP program saved the seniors of North Carolina $44 million,” Causey said.
Causey also gave the crowd an overview of the duties of the Department of Insurance, which he said involves more than just insurance issues.
“There are 25 divisions within the Department of Insurance and only five of those are specific to insurance,” he said.
North Carolina was also first state to put a criminal investigations unit within the Department of Insurance, investigating insurance and fraud, and is the chief building inspector for the state.
Causey also holds the role of State Fire Marshal and on Friday included visits to several fire departments in Carteret County, including Morehead City, Emerald Isle and the Western Carteret fire departments.
During his comments Friday morning, Causey said there are 1,351 fire stations across North Carolina and each is important not only for their fire protection but also their impact on homeowner insurance rates.
“That’s important to you because where you live in proximity to a fire department and what that fire department’s rating is determines to a large extent what you end up paying for homeowner’s insurance,” Causey said.
At his stop at the Emerald Isle Fire Department, Causey thanked the firefighters for what they do and asked about the communications software displayed on a monitor as he walked in the room. The software show time and location of calls, their priority and other information that makes it easy for first responders to track calls and respond as quickly as possible.
EIFD Chief Bill Walker said the department’s average response time is about 4 minutes and they continually work to improve that time. He noted that firefighters have access to the communications software from laptops in their truck.
Causey said the work of the fire departments across the state is much appreciated and his department is doing all it can to help them do their job more effectively.
One of the things he found after being elected that there are some departments that have gone without being inspected for 20 years. Causey said there were only five inspectors but with the current budget he was able to get three additional inspectors to help deal with the caseload.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com or 910-382-2557.