The push to save our State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) is still underway. While the House approves continued level funding for SHIP in the next fiscal year, the Senate continues to advocate for cutting this successful program that provides essential individual counseling, advocacy and education on Medicare coverage to millions of Medicare beneficiaries each year. We ask your continued efforts in voicing your support for the SHIPs to your Congress people and demanding continued funding. Below is an advocacy tip sheet from National Council on Aging (NCOA) on outreach strategies for July – December 2016. Thank you in advance for your ongoing support!!
- On June 9, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY17 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (Labor-HHS bill) that included a proposal to eliminate all $52.1 million for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
- The total allocation for the Senate bill is $270 million less than the FY16 bill, and there was a significant push to increase the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2 billion and provide new resources to address the Zika virus and opiod addiction.
- Unlike last year when the Senate Appropriations response to budget caps was to spread cuts among many programs (including a proposed 42% cut for SHIP), this year larger cuts were proposed for fewer programs.
- Despite the significant education done last year and early this year with Committee staff, there is still a belief that 1-800-MEDICARE and Medicare.gov provide a sufficient safety net for Medicare beneficiaries with questions and concerns about Medicare coverage and claims in the event SHIPs have to scale back or stop their efforts.
- On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY17 Labor-HHS bill, providing level-funding for SHIP. The House also proposed level funding last year.
- The total allocation for the House bill is $569 million less than the FY16 bill, and while new resources were also provided for Zika and opiod efforts, NIH funding was only increased by $1.25 billion.
- Despite the efforts to return the appropriations process to regular order, neither Labor-HHS bill is expected to be debated on the floor of either chamber.
- In the short-term, FY17 funding at the outset (beginning Oct. 1) will be provided by a Continuing Resolution (CR). Typically, CRs provide level funding. There continues to be debate whether the CR will run through December 2016 or March 2017.
- When Congress returns for the lame duck session after the election, depending on the election results, attention will either turn to crafting an omnibus bill that encompasses compromise final versions of all or most of the appropriations bills or another CR that provides funding into early 2017. There is also a possibility that FY17 funding could eventually be provided by a full-year CR.
ACTIVITIES AND TIMING
Our advocacy approach is based on the expectation that Congress will chose to finalize its appropriations work in December. Therefore, the next several months should be focused on thanking key Representatives; using the recesses to educate Congressional delegations about SHIPs in person; and urging members to adopt the House proposal for SHIP in the final FY17 funding bill. A significant push on the final negotiations will need to occur during the post-election lame-duck session in November through December.
JULY – Thank Representatives
Two sets of U.S. House members need to be thanked. This also provides another opportunity to emphasize the key messages about the SHIP in your state, and continue the conversation.
House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee leaders
Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY-5)
Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY-17)
Tom Cole (R-OK-4), Subcommittee Chairman
Mike Simpson (R-ID-2)
Steve Womack (R-AR-3), Vice Chair
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-3)
Andy Harris, MD (R-MD-1)
Martha Roby (R-AL-2)
Charlie Dent (R-PA-15)
Scott Rigell (R-VA-2)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3), Subcommittee Ranking Member
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40)
Barbara Lee (D-CA-13)
Signers of Schakowsky-Matsui-Becerra joint letter supporting SHIP to House Appropriators
Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34)
Doris Matsui (D-CA-6)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9)
Sander M. Levin (D-MI-9)
Eliot L. Engel (D-NY-16)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8)
Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-4)
Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31)
Kathy Castor (D-FL-14)
Judy Chu (D-CA-27)
David N. Cicilline (D-RI-1)
Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11)
Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL-21)
Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35)
Keith Ellison (D-MN-5)
Sam Farr (D-CA-20)
Lois Frankel (D-FL-22)
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3)
William R. Keating (D-MA-9)
Joseph P. Kennedy, III (D-MA-4)
John B. Larson (D-CT-1)
Barbara Lee (D-CA-13)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-1)
Jim McDermott (D-WA-7)
Richard M. Nolan (D-MN-8)
Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-9)
Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1)
Mark Pocan (D-WI-2)
Jackie Speier (D-CA-14)
Niki Tsongas (D-MA-3)
Scott H. Peters (D-CA-52)
John Garamendi (D-CA-3)
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI-3)
Brad Ashford (D-NE-2)
Patrick E. Murphy (D-FL-18)
Look up the contact information in the “Find Your Elected Officials” section of the NCOA Action Center website (ncoa.org/ActNow).
Send an email or write a letter to the District Office with the following messages:
- Labor-HHS members: As your constituent, I’m writing to express appreciation that the FY17 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill level-funds the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at $52.1 million. IF you can lobby, it’s very important that the House insist upon its proposal for SHIP when negotiating final FY17 funding with the Senate.
- Letter signers: As your constituent, I’m writing to share my appreciation for your support for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) by signing on to the joint letter to House appropriators urging robust funding for FY17.
- Describe your state/local program, using the state template provided by NCOA. Include data like numbers served, savings achieved, numbers of volunteers enlisted, etc. Also, please include a story or other narrative of a beneficiary that has been helped.
- Invite the Representative to contact you for additional information, and if you are comfortable, to visit your program (particularly during their July 16-Sept. 6 recess or Oct. 1-Nov. 13 recess during Open Enrollment).
AUGUST – MID-NOVEMBER – Advocate in person
During District Work Periods, Congress will be in recess and Senators in Representatives will be working back home. The upcoming recesses are extensive: July 16-Sept. 6 and Oct. 1-Nov. 13 (Senate recess begins Oct. 8).
If you can’t organize a meeting or visit during the summer recess, start now to plan an Open Enrollment event to invite your Representatives and/or Senators to attend during the Oct-Nov recess.
All Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for re-election, unless they are retiring, so these members of Congress will also be campaigning.
Use our Recess Advocacy Toolkit to take advantage of a number of opportunities to educate your members of Congress and advocate for SHIP (these are just options, not a to-do list of all the activities we’re asking you to tackle). Resources include:
- National messaging in the NCOA SHIP Issue Brief
- How to get an elected official to attend your event
- Top 10 tips for a successful visit to a member of Congress
- 9 tips for town hall meetings
- From Accountable Congress: Find local Congressional events
- Also find members’ events by visiting their websites and signing up for newsletters
Messaging should include:
- Importance of SHIP in your state using data and stories from state fact sheets (using NCOA template or others)
- Ways the SHIP can help Congressional caseworkers help constituents navigate Medicare choices (if they aren’t already)
- Reiterating thank yous to Representatives noted above
- IF you can lobby:
- Requesting Representatives to insist on House-proposed level-funding for SHIP in negotiations with Senate on final FY17 funding. Targets: House appropriators noted above.
- Requesting Senators to accept House proposal for SHIP in negotiations with House on final FY17 funding. Targets: Subcommittee members, which include the full Committee leaders:
Roy Blunt (R-MO), Subcommittee Chairman
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Thad Cochran (R-MS), Full Committee Chairman
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
James Lankford (R-OK)
Patty Murray (D-WA), Subcommittee Ranking
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Jack Reed (D-RI)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Full Committee Ranking
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
It should be noted that while your calls and emails are directed to members of Congress, these recess meetings, events and other activities are also opportunities to engage Congressional staff. Don’t forget to include them in your plans for in-person activities to have the chance to develop relationships that can have long-lasting benefits.
Media and social media:
NCOA is working on tips and draft language for messaging for both traditional media and social media, particularly to incorporate the SHIP funding issue into your outreach and coverage during Open Enrollment. We will continue to be sensitive to those who cannot lobby. Until then, please continue to retweet and share NCOA social media messages that seek to educate about SHIP and its beneficiaries.
NOVEMBER – DECEMBER – Urge Congress on end-game
As noted earlier, the post-election lame duck session is the crucial time for advocacy to influence FY17 final decisions.
NCOA will provide updated tools, targets, and messaging depending on the outcome of the election and the anticipated timing of appropriations decisionmaking.
There will still be a role for education – sharing the data and stories that emphasize the importance of SHIP. But the priority will be delivering the advocacy message that urges House appropriators to insist on their proposal for SHIP, and Senate appropriators to accept the House SHIP number. It will be more important than ever to identify and enlist those who can lobby on behalf of SHIP.
Just as the messaging will likely be familiar, the targets will remain unchanged. The key targets will be Labor-HHS appropriators, but we’ll also rely on your outreach to other members of Congress to ensure the message gets across to those making the final FY17 funding decisions.