The US Senate is considering a 42% reduction in funding to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, which counsels seniors and people with disabilities on their Medicare health plan options. SHIP funding would drop to a mere $20 million, diminishing the numbers and quality of the SHIP workforce.
SHIP is Necessary Now More than Ever
Every day, 10,000 Americans become eligible for a Medicare system that is increasingly more complex. Medicare beneficiaries pay the price for the confusion:
- 700,000 Medicare are paying the Part B Late Enrollment Penalty because they missed the deadline to sign up,
- Medicare Part D beneficiaries in Low-Income Subsidy are often unaware of lower priced options,
Poorer Trained, Less Helpful
The federal cuts would compromise SHIP's ability to adequately serve everyone who needs help. One and a half million fewer people would receive assistance. Moreover, most of the SHIP counselors are volunteers who donate almost two million hours of help. Cuts could also result in reduced or compromised volunteer training, which increases the risk of erroneous advice and reduces the quality of services beneficiaries receive.
Those in favor of the cuts claim there are less costly alternatives to SHIP. This is untrue. The materials suggested as substitutes, 1-800 Medicare, Medicare.gov and the Medicare Enrollment Handbook, all list SHIP as a resource for people to use with additional questions. A brochure is no substitute for one-on-one, expert advice.
What You Can Do
Tell your Senator to fight cuts to the SHIP program, that your family, friends, even you personally, benefit from the free services that SHIP counselors provide. It's easy:
- Send our Senators this model letter drafted by the National Council on Aging. Just copy and paste the text into their contact forms: Sen. Kirk's form Sen. Durbin's form (remember to sign your name!)
- Tweet your advocacy with this graphic we created – and tag @SenatorKirk @SenatorDurbin
- Feel free to personalize with your story, or the story of loved ones. Personal stories make a difference!
Bryce Marable MSW
Health Policy Analyst
Health & Disability Advocates