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.

Current Status

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 approved its version of the FY18 Labor-HHS bill on September 7 and has proposed funding SHIP at its current level of $47.1 million.

Check this page frequently for the latest legislative updates and how that influences advocacy strategies.

Take Action

There are a number of ways you can help defend Medicare SHIP funding.

Learn More

We have a variety of resources to provide more information on this issue, enlist allies, and educate Congress.

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