Support our SHIPs ~ CHA Advocates for Full Funding of Medicare Counseling Program

Support our SHIPs ~ CHA Advocates for Full Funding of Medicare Counseling Program

Below is a letter California Health Advocates submitted in strong support of full funding for the nationwide State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) in 2021. SHIPs advise, educate, and empower individuals to avoid late enrollment penalties, navigate the increasingly complex Medicare program and help beneficiaries make choices among a vast array of options to best meet their needs and budget. SHIPs also assist individuals who are potentially eligible for certain low-income cost saving options. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SHIPs have had to adapt their services to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries in novel ways, many of which involve new expenses and equipment for volunteer counselors and costly electronic services. We support full funding for this important resource for Medicare beneficiaries and their families and encourage an increase in funding to reflect the increased demand for services. Read the letter below.

_________________________________________________________________________

 

July 6, 2020

 

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
The Honorable Tom Cole, Ranking Member
House Labor, Health and Human Services and related agencies, Appropriations Subcommittee 2413 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairwoman DeLauro, and Tom Cole, Ranking Member:

 

We are writing in strong support for the 2021 appropriation for the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP). Since 1992, SHIP counseling services have been provided via telephone, one-on-one in- person sessions, interactive presentation events, health fairs, exhibits, and enrollment events. SHIPs advise, educate, and empower individuals to avoid late enrollment penalties, navigate the increasingly complex Medicare program and help beneficiaries make choices among a vast array of options to best meet their needs and budget. SHIPs also assist individuals who are potentially eligible for certain low-income cost saving options.

 

Since 2010 approximately 10,000 people a day have aged into Medicare and that growth will continue every day for another ten years. In addition, increasing numbers of Medicare eligible individuals who have continued to work past age 65 and delayed enrollment in Medicare have lost their employer coverage due to the COVID-19 and need assistance enrolling in Medicare. If the current SHIP budget had kept pace with the growth in the Medicare program and inflation the current budgeted amount of $52.1 million would have grown to at least $72 million.

 

The California the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) is part of the national SHIP network and is the only program in the state that provides free, unbiased, one-on-one benefit information counseling to Medicare beneficiaries. California Health Advocates (CHA), a non-profit organization founded in 1997, is the leading Medicare advocacy and educational voice for more than 6.4 million Californians, and provides support, training, and materials to our California HICAP members.

 

Because of COVID-19 the SHIPs have had to adapt their services to meet the needs of Medicare beneficiaries in novel ways, many of which involve new expenses and equipment for volunteer counselors and costly electronic services.

 

SHIPs play a critical role in ensuring that their choices for health benefits are well informed, appropriate, and cost effective for each beneficiary served by a SHIP. We are in strong support of continued funding for this important resource for Medicare beneficiaries and their families and encourage an increase in funding to reflect the increased demand for services.

 

Sincerely,

 

Christina Dimas-Kahn Board Chair

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.