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 at least $70 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. Funding was cut by $5 million, or nearly 10%, to $47.1 million for FY17. In FY18, with a budget deal that raise the budget caps, SHIP funding was partially restored, to $49.1 million.
For FY20, the Administration proposed a $13 million cut rather than elimination of SHIP funding. The House has approved a nearly $6 million increase, to $55 million. Senate action is still pending, and is expected in September.
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 FY20 Aging Services action alert.
- 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, 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.
- Senate joint letter, organized by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), signed by 23 Senators, requesting increased SHIP funding (April 11, 2019)
- House joint letter, organized by Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Matsui (D-CA) and Deutch (D-FL), signed by 28 members of Congress, in support of FY20 funding for SHIP and SCSEP (March 28, 2019)
- Senate joint letter organized by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), signed by 24 Senators, in support of FY19 SHIP funding (April 13, 2018)
- House joint letter, organized by Reps. Schakowsky (D-IL), Matsui (D-CA) and Deutch (D-FL), signed by 41 members of Congress, in support of FY19 funding for SHIP and SCSEP (March 19, 2018)
- Issue Brief: FY20 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 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 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 by35 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.