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SHIP Funding

Health and Independence of Medicare Recipients Threatened by Proposed Elimination of SHIPs

$52.1 million in funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) was completely eliminated in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget appropriations bill approved by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. This move would effectively end the only program that provides free, personalized, unbiased Medicare coverage counseling to 55 million people with Medicare. Every day 10,000 more baby boomers age into Medicare, meaning the number of people needing these services is growing rapidly so, in fact, more funding is needed.

The State of Wisconsin currently receives about $1 million annually through the federal SHIP grant. This funding is used to support the:

·        Toll-free statewide Medigap Helpline and Medigap Part D and Prescription Drug Helpline

·        Toll-free statewide Medicare Part D Helpline for people with disabilities and their families or guardians;

·        Elder Healthcare Advocate (an attorney specializing in eligibility and transitions for BadgerCare Plus, the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicare) and

·        Elder Benefit Specialist services in 72 counties and 11 tribes.

In 2015, staff working in these programs and services in Wisconsin responded to over 95,000 individual contacts with Medicare beneficiaries and conducted over 2,600 public outreach events during that same period. Over 5,100 callers were referred to a Wisconsin SHIP counselor by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and another 13,000 were referred from another agency such as Social Security.

For more than 24 years, SHIPs have advised, educated, and empowered individuals to navigate their state-specific Medicare choices. In addition, SHIPs help beneficiaries resolve fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeals, and enrollment in low-income health assistance programs. In 2015, SHIPs provided assistance to more than seven million individuals with Medicare.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee has not yet taken action, but is likely to do so in the coming days, possibly before June 24. Contact your U.S. Representative now to educate him/her on how SHIP funding is used in Wisconsin and the program’s important role in helping Medicare beneficiaries.

Wisconsin does not have any Representatives on the House Appropriations Committee; however, contacts are still important. Encourage your Representative to reach out to their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee. Ask them to reject the Senate’s proposal to eliminate funding and to increase their investment in SHIP, which helps older adults and people with disabilities. Help prevent millions of Americans who need help navigating the Medicare programs and comparing coverage options from being left stranded.

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