Key Takeaways

  • State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) offer free and unbiased insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers.

  • SHIP counselors are highly trained and certified to help you understand Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug coverage, supplemental insurance options (Medigap), and long-term care insurance.

  • As needed, they can also refer you to agencies such as the Social Security Administration and State Medicaid offices for more help.

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) offer unbiased Medicare counseling by a trained staff member or volunteer. Your local SHIP can help you as you navigate the complexities of Medicare.

4 things to know about State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs):

1. SHIP counselors can offer personalized assistance with your Medicare coverage.
Counselors provide one-on-one assistance:

  • Reviewing your health and/or prescription drug options,Learning about assistance programs that could help with your out-of-pocket Medicare costs,
  • Understanding Medicare basics, including eligibility guidelines,
  • Navigating Medicare coverage and payment, and
  • Ensuring your rights are protected under Medicare.

2. SHIP services are offered at no cost to you.
SHIP information and assistance is completely free and will never cost you a penny. SHIPs nationally are funded in part by the Administration for Community Living, Office of Healthcare Information and Counseling.

3. SHIP counselors are not selling anything.
SHIP counselors are highly trained and certified to provide free, in-depth, unbiased, one-on-one health insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. They are not selling insurance plans and do not offer enrollment services.

4. No matter where you are in the US, there is a SHIP for you.
SHIPs are available to you in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, DC, and the US Virgin Islands. Visit the SHIP website to find one near you or call the SHIP National Technical Assistance Center toll free at 877-839-2675.

Talking to a qualified Medicare expert can help

There’s a lot riding on your choice of Medicare coverage. Arming yourself with accurate, up-to-date information can help you choose the best plan for your needs. One way to do this is by talking to a certified advisor who can offer you objective, personalized enrollment advice. They will help you weigh all the factors to consider in choosing a Medicare plan, such as:

  • Whether the plan will cover the services you need to stay healthy.
  • What your premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs will look like.
  • How Medicare will work with your existing health or drug plans.
  • What your prescription drugs will cost under the plan.
  • Whether you have a choice of providers, or you have to stick with providers and facilities from a network.
  • Whether your plan will cover you while traveling.

Medicare brokers who meet NCOA’s Standards of Excellence

NCOA can connect you with information on licensed Medicare advisers who meet NCOA's strict Medicare Standards of Excellence (SOE). We’ve identified trustworthy Medicare brokers who meet rigorous guidelines to ensure you can be confident in the enrollment choices you make. Each one has gone through our intensive SOE training and certification process, enabling them to provide in-depth Medicare education and practical decision-making support. Talking to these certified advisers costs you nothing.