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.
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.
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.
- Write your members of Congress to urge their support for SHIP funding, using our Action Center and points from our 2020 Issue Brief.
- Educate your members of Congress or their staff through local meetings and events, using our federal budget advocacy and recess 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, Public Policy & Action 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.
- Senate joint letter, organized by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), signed by 23 Senators, requesting increased SHIP funding (March 27, 2020)
- House joint letter, organized by the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families, signed by 49 members of Congress, in support of FY21 funding for SHIP and SCSEP (March 2020)
- NCOA Issue Brief: FY21 Medicare SHIP Funding
- Congressional Research Service (CRS): State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) brief
- SHIPs by the Numbers infographic (2017)
- SHIPs Services infographic (2016)
- 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.