Save Our SHIPS: Medicare Program on the Chopping Block

Dear Partners,

Today, we urgently need you to raise your voices and tell Congress about the importance of Medicare’s State Health Insurance Programs (SHIPs). As consumer health advocates, we all know that having in-person assisters available to help consumers is a critical aspect of increasing access to and usage of health insurance.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would eliminate all funding for SHIPs - enrollment assistance programs that helped 7 million Medicare-eligible consumers enroll in Medicare plans in 2015. Similar to the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator program across the country and the Consumer Assistance Programs available in several states, SHIP counselors and volunteers provide vital, one-on-one counseling at no-cost to help millions of seniors apply for coverage, choose a plan and navigate their benefits.

The Senate bill will now go to the House Appropriations Committee, making this a critical time for your Representatives to hear from you. To help show your support for SHIP funding, please contact contact your United States Representatives this week to express your support for SHIP funding, especially those serving on the House Appropriations Committee. Please feel free to use the below talking points when asking for their support. We also included Social Media content and a graphic for you to use. Additionally, if you know consumers who have benefited from SHIP programs, please be sure to share those specific stories with your legislators as well.

For more information, please see the The National Council on Aging (NCOA)’s issue brief on SHIP funding and Kaiser Health News’ article on the potential consequences of a loss in funding,

Thank you so much. As always, please let us know if you have any questions!

Sincerely,

Community Catalyst’s Consumer Assistance Team and Center for Consumer Engagement and Health Innovation

SHIP Funding Talking Points

Topline: We need members of the U.S. House, especially members of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations to protect funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

Talking Points:

  • Approximately 10,000 Americans become eligible for Medicare every single day, and the SHIP program helped more than 7 million seniors last year alone!
  • With an aging U.S. population, the demand for SHIP services increases dramatically with each passing day.
    • Demand for services has tripled over the past 10 years, but funding has not kept pace.
  • The SHIP program provides funding for sites in [INSERT STATE NAME].
    • In total the program funds 54 grantees in each state plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and has existed since 1992.
    • Government funding for this project is essential, and SHIPs have used these resources wisely -- there are more than 15,000 counselors of whom 57 percent are unpaid volunteers. The paid employees train and support the program’s volunteer base, significantly extending the reach of the project.
  • SHIPs offer critical services to advise, educate and empower individuals to navigate the vastly complex Medicare program.
    • SHIPs provide free, local, in-depth support and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers.
    • SHIPs assist consumers with understanding and choosing plans, billing problems and appeals, as well as avoid fraud and abuse issues.
  • Without this critical program, millions of seniors will lose access to needed Medicare assistance, with nowhere to turn for free, one-on-one counseling for seniors, their families and caregivers.

Please call or write your U.S. legislators today. Tell them to stand up for America’s seniors and ensure that this critical program continues to provide Medicare assistance to those that need it most.

Finally,

As you are able, please reach out to partner organizations to encourage them to ask their memberships to contact their legislators as well, including:

    • AARP, AFGE, AFSCME Retirees, and other organizations engaging seniors

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DOWNLOAD THE SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHIC HERE

Sample Tweets:

10,000 Americans become eligible for #Medicare every day - the SHIP program helps seniors navigate the system | #SaveOurSHIPs

The Senate recently stripped all funding from the #Medicare SHIP program, protect our seniors - save this essential resource | #SaveOurSHIPs

SHIP programs offer critical services to America's seniors >> they advise, educate people to choose the right #Medicare plan. #SaveOurSHIPs

Tell #Congress to protect #Medicare SHIP, and all of the seniors that utilize these programs. #SaveOurSHIPs

Sample Facebook Post:

Recently, the Senate stripped away all the funding for the Medicare SHIP program. This essential program helped over 7 million people navigate the #Medicare system last year alone. Protect America’s 55 million seniors and tell Congress to #SaveOurSHIPs.

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