More details of the President’s proposed budget were released last week outlining innumerable cuts to social service programs, including essentially eliminating funds for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP funding pays the 24 local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Programs (HICAPs) here in California to provide Medicare counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficaries and their families in every county in our state. Current annual funding for all SHIPs nationwide is $52.1 million whereas the new budget allocates a mere $3 million, a 94% cut.
This cut would be devastating to Medicare beneficiaries and their families in California and nationwide. As mentioned, SHIP programs (HICAP in California) are their primary source of free, unbiased, one-on-one information, counseling and advocacy for Medicare and other health insurance related issues, questions and situations requiring advocacy for access to entitled care and health care rights. Their services simply CANNOT be replaced by 1-800-Medicare, as stated in the budget.
Please join us in opposing this budget cut and contact your Congress people to keep funding for our nation’s State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), which is the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP) in California.
And here are some points you can include in your calls, comments or letters to Congress:
- SHIP is only program that provides free, unbiased, one-on-one Medicare coverage and benefits counseling to older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.
- Over the past decade, the number of Medicare beneficiaries receiving personal assistance has almost tripled. Last year, over 7 million people were helped and 98,000 public education presentations were given throughout the country.
- With a dizzying array of Medicare coverage options (Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap plans, TRICARE, retirement plans, etc) and significant differences in premiums, cost-sharing, provider networks, and coverage rules, sorting through information is overwhelming, isolating and confusing. SHIPs’ one-on-one counseling services play an essential role in making sure beneficiaries make well-informed choices and receive the coverage that best meets their needs.
- SHIPs offer increasingly critical services that cannot be provided by 1-800 Medicare, on-line or written materials, or other outreach activities. In fact, approximately one-third of all partner referrals to SHIP originate from Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans, local and state agencies, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration, and members of Congress and their staff.
Thank you for your advocacy! We will keep you informed and share other petitions, letters, etc as they come.