Understanding Medicare can be confusing and overwhelming. Eligibility dates, options for supplemental plans, Advantage plans, and prescription coverage can be daunting. State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) have helped Medicare beneficiaries navigate the complexities of the Medicare system. On June 16th, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their FY 2017 budget, which would eliminate funding for State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). This move would result in 55 million people being left without access to the only free and personalized counseling service to help Medicare beneficiaries.
Many kidney patients rely on the assistance that SHIPs provide. SHIPs offers free advice on how to resolve billing, fraud and abuse issues, choose from an array of drug and health insurance plans, challenge coverage denials, and receive financial subsidies for premiums, co-payments and deductibles. They also provide personalized counseling and host Medicare enrollment clinics, informational meetings, and answer questions over toll-free telephone help lines.
In 2015, the 3,300 SHIPs served more than seven million Americans, through more than 15,000 counselors in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, DC and the Virgin Islands. SHIPs offer increasingly critical services that cannot be supplied by 1-800 MEDICARE, on-line or written materials, or other outreach activities. Approximately one-third of 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.
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) wants to protect this important service for all Medicare recipients. Therefore, NKF and other patient advocacy organizations have signed on to a letter to express their opposition to the Senate’s budget cut and are asking the House to, at a minimum, keep SHIP funding at its current level. This letter was sent to key members of the U.S. House of Representatives and was authored by the National Council on Aging.
If you have ever used a SHIP, please include your story in the comment section below. Also you can write your U.S. Representatives an ask them to act to maintain funding for SHIPs through the Medicare Rights Center