What are State Health Insurance Assistance Programs?
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a national federal program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to individuals and their families who participate in Medicare. The federal government makes grants available, which allows each state to develop its own SHIP.
Through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program in each state, eligible individuals have access to free counseling and assistance via telephone and face-to-face sessions, as well as media activities and public education programs. SHIP counselors are charged to offer free, objective assistance and to maintain complete confidentiality.
Each State Health Insurance Assistance Program is independent of any insurance company or agency and does not sell insurance. The staff of each SHIP office consists of trained volunteer counselors who must complete an intensive four-day training course and become certified by the state. Counselors are required to attend training update classes whenever changes occur to Medicare and other health insurance options.
Some of the information SHIP counselors can address with clients includes questions about Medicare, Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, low-income assistance, and prescription coverage. Counselors can also provide individuals with educational materials about how to choose health insurance policies, how to evaluate prescriptions, the rights of Medicare beneficiaries, how to appeal Medicare decisions, what Medigap options are available, and how to choose long-term care insurance.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs also provide speakers for community groups, clubs, and senior centers, and they can make referrals to other agencies for individuals who need additional information or whose needs are not met by their local SHIP office. Many SHIP offices send representatives to local health fairs and other community events to distribute information and answer questions from the public.
To find the State Health Insurance Assistance Program in your state, visit the SHIPtalk website. You can search for your state’s main SHIP office as well as a list of counselors located throughout each state. Most states offer bilingual counseling and in-home services. You can also access your state’s SHIP through the Medicare website.