The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved a 2017 spending bill that completely eliminates funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
Older adults, people with disabilities, and their families and caregivers need assistance understanding the A, B, C and Ds of Medicare. Operating in every state, SHIPs answer questions about Medicare and help people solve problems. Eliminating SHIPs would leave millions who need support comparing coverage options, appealing denials, applying for financial assistance, and navigating increasingly complex Medicare benefits stranded—with nowhere to turn.
Today’s Medicare beneficiary must choose among more than 20 prescription drug plans, an average of 19 Medicare Advantage plans, as well as various Medigap supplemental insurance policies—all with different premiums, cost sharing, provider networks, and coverage rules. For more than 24 years, SHIPs have advised, educated, and empowered individuals to navigate their state-specific Medicare choices. Specifically, SHIPs help beneficiaries resolve fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeals, and enrollment in low-income protection programs. . In 2015, SHIPs provided assistance to more than 7 million people with Medicare.