This week is a critical time to reach out to your Congressional Representatives in support of vital aging programs as Congress has returned to Washington, D.C. from their August summer break.
Before they left, House and Senate Appropriations Committee had proposed deep cuts to several key programs that support older adults, including the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). The committees passed funding bill would actually eliminate funding for the SHIPs, the only free, individual, and unbiased Medicare counseling and advocacy program nationwide. The SHIP program is known as the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) in California.
With Congress back and already discussing the budget, our action and voicing our support for the SHIP program is crucial.
What can I do?
- Reach out to your Representative(s) in the House, and ask him or her to support any efforts to maintain SHIP funding in a final bill.
- Make sure your Senators and their staff also understand how SHIP benefit older adults—their constituents—in their state. It is important to personalize this outreach.
- You can find contact information for your Representatives at house.gov and Senators at senate.gov
- Share video testimonials of How SHIP helped me to spread awareness of this program and its benefits to beneficiaries, caregivers, families and providers nationwide.
Here are some talking points you can use:
- The national network of 54 state SHIP grantees and 3,300 local SHIPs are essential to helping Medicare beneficiaries— many of whom are on extremely limited incomes—navigate an evolving and complicated Medicare landscape. SHIPs play a critical role in ensuring that older adults make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage, including selecting among a dizzying array of supplemental Medigap plans, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and Part D prescription drug plans.
- Over 15,000 mostly volunteer SHIP counselors provide one-on-one assistance to Medicare beneficiaries and their families, and these critical services cannot be replicated or replaced by 1-800-MEDICARE, medicare.gov materials or other broad outreach activities.
- SHIPs handle the most complex cases, where only personalized help will do. In fact, approximately 1/3 of all partner referrals to SHIP originate from Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans, local and state agencies, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration, and Members of Congress and their staff.
- SHIP counseling assistance can save individual Medicare beneficiaries hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars every year. For many Medicare beneficiaries on limited incomes, the Medicare counseling services that SHIPs provide may spare them additional unfortunate choices between paying more for health care and covering other critical essentials such as rent or food.
- At a minimum, ask your Representatives and Senators to maintain the SHIP program and restore funding to SHIPs to FY 2017 levels of $47.1 million. With 10,000 boomers becoming eligible for Medicare every day, urge lawmakers to adequately fund SHIPs to reflect the increasing number of clients and complexity of Medicare.
Our timing is imperative. Thank you for joining us in advocating for this vital program!