What’s at Stake
Understanding the A, B, C, and Ds of Medicare is an overwhelming, isolating experience if older adults and people with disabilities go without help. The Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides local, in-depth, insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers. This encompasses a broad range of areas, including coverage options, fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeal rights, and enrollment in low-income protection programs.
Funding supports a network of more than 3,300 local SHIPs and over 15,000 counselors. Since 1992, counseling services have been provided via telephone, one-on-one in-person sessions, interactive presentation events, health fairs, exhibits, and enrollment events.
Approximately 10,000 Americans become eligible for Medicare each day – significantly increasing the need and demand for SHIP services. Over the past two years, more than 7 million people with Medicare received help from SHIPs. Individualized assistance provided by SHIPs has almost tripled over the past 10 years.
If annual funding had simply kept pace with inflation and the growth in the number of Medicare beneficiaries since FY11, it would have reached at least $67 million. With the increase in beneficiaries and the complexity of the Medicare program, investment in SHIP is crucial.
However, annual SHIP funding has come under attack in recent years. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposed cutting funding by 42% for FY16 and eliminating it entirely for FY17. In each year, House Appropriators called for protecting funding at its then-current level of $52.1 million. Level funding was maintained for FY16, but FY17 funding was ultimately reduced to $47.1 million, which was a $5 million, or nearly 10%, cut.
The Administration’s FY18 budget request called for eliminating all funding for the Medicare SHIP program.
Despite protecting the funding in recent years, the House Appropriations Committee has also proposed zeroing out SHIP in its version of the FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill (Labor-HHS bill). During the Committee process, appropriations from both parties, including Reps David Young (R-IA) and David Price (D-NC) spoke out in favor of protecting SHIP.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the FY18 Labor-HHS bill funds SHIP at its current level of $47.1 million.
Appropriators are working to finalize FY18 funding before a March 23 deadline.
Check this page frequently for the latest legislative updates and how that influences advocacy strategies.
There are a number of ways you can help defend Medicare SHIP funding.
- Use our template to help describe what Medicare SHIP does in your state.
- Educate your members of Congress or their staff with an email describing SHIP in your state or community and local meetings and events, using some of our federal budget advocacy messages.
- Engage social media and traditional media to tell the story of SHIP in your community.
- Mobilize advocacy by others by promoting NCOA’s advocacy news sign-up, Straight Talk for Seniors® blog posts, and federal budget policy information.
- Email NCOA Advocacy to share information on members of Congress who support Medicare SHIP.
We have a variety of resources to provide more information on this issue, enlist allies, and educate Congress.
- Issue Brief: FY18 Medicare SHIP Funding
- SHIPs by the Numbers infographic (2017)
- SHIPs Services infographic (2016)
- House joint letter organized by Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL) and Deutch (D-FL), signed by a total of 37 members of Congress, in support of protecting FY18 funding for SHIP and the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP) (July 10, 2017)
- Senate joint letter organized by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), signed by a total of 23 Senators, in support of protecting FY18 funding for SHIP (May 25, 2017)
- House joint letter organized by Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Matsui (D-CA), and Becerra (D-CA), signed by a total of 35 members of Congress, in support of FY17 funding for SHIP (July 6, 2016)
- Group letter to Senate and House Appropriations Committee leadership urging SHIP at least be level funded, and funding restored to $52.1 million if a budget deal is reached, signed by 82 national organizations (Dec. 7, 2017)
- Group letter to House Appropriations Committee urging SHIP funding be restored in FY18 signed by 79 national organizations (July 18, 2017)
- Group letter to Senate Appropriations Committee urging adoption of House-proposed level funding for SHIP in FY17 signed by 75 national organizations (Sept. 17, 2016)
- Group letter to House Appropriations Committee urging at least level funding in FY17 for SHIP signed by 65 national organizations (July 6, 2016)
- Group press release opposing Senate’s proposed elimination of SHIP (June 16, 2016)
- Group letter signed by 34 national aging and disability organizations urging Senate to reject proposed 42% cut in SHIP (Sept. 17, 2015)
- The SHIP National Technical Assistance Center
- Administration for Community Living on the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
- Template for State SHIP fact sheet
Contact us if you have questions or need additional support reaching out to your members of Congress.