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. In 2017, SHIPs provided one-on-one health insurance counseling for nearly 3 million Medicare beneficiaries, and conducted outreach to nearly 3.5 million individuals at public presentations, enrollment events, health and senior fairs, and other interactive community events. Individualized assistance provided by SHIPs has almost tripled over the past decade.

If annual funding had simply kept pace with inflation and the growth in the number of Medicare beneficiaries since FY11, it would have reached almost $75 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 program was cut by $5 million, or nearly 10%, to $47.1 million for FY17. Funding was restored to its historic level of $52.1 million for FY20, and the House Appropriations Committee has proposed an increase to $54.1 million for FY21.

Current Status

For FY21, the Administration proposed only $36.1 million. The House has approved a $2 million increase, to $54.1 million. Senate action is still pending, and final FY21 appropriations are not expected to be resolved until late 2020 or early 2021

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

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

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

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