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42% Funding Cut Proposed for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Programs

posted Nov 16, 2015, 7:37 AM by Kim Cobb
In July the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a 42% cut in funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs), from $52 million to $30 million. Now, Congressional leaders are deciding whether to retain this cut. This is the largest cut ever proposed in the history of the SHIP program. It would significantly erode the national SHIP network of unbiased, personalized Medicare benefits information counseling.

Wisconsin is home to 1,027,875 Medicare beneficiaries (1.8% of the U.S. total) and the SHIP is responsible for outreach, counseling and assistance these beneficiaries. 
With so many new people reaching the Medicare eligible age of 65, our SHIP serves more people every year. The Wisconsin SHIP has seen an average yearly increase of 11% in client contacts since 2011. They conducted 2,200 outreach events and handled 97,832 client contacts in 2014.  That means someone contacts a Wisconsin SHIP counselor every 76 seconds during the average business day. Thirty-six percent (36%) of contacts involved beneficiaries with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level; 19% involved people with disabilities and 8% involved people who have a mental illness or other mental disability and are eligible for Medicaid as well as Medicare.
The SHIP is an integral component of the network of services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities with Medicare. The Social Security Administration, CMS, 1-800-MEDICARE, Medicare health and prescription drug plans, local and state agencies, and Congressional representatives regularly refer beneficiaries to the Wisconsin SHIP for information and assistance.  In Wisconsin, 21% of SHIP contacts were initiated as a result of a referral from CMS, Social Security or another agency.
Wisconsin received $980,625 in annual federal grant funding to operate this program in 2015. If you can advocate, please email your Senators and Representative now and urge them to reject the proposed Senate cut in SHIP funding, and provide level funding of $52 million, as the House Appropriations Committee has recommended.