To The Daily Sun,
At the beginning of June 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 29-1 to cut a critical Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program called SHIP. The committee proposed that the Medicare SHIP Program lose all of its $52.1 million in funding, effectively eliminating the program.
I am writing to explain the benefits of the SHIP program to you and to ask that you contact your members of Congress to let them know the benefits of this program.
As a SHIP counselor, I am trained to provide free, in-depth, personalized counseling to seniors and people with disabilities who need unbiased help with the growing complexities of Medicare coverage. I have counseled people from all walks of life, all levels of formal education, and all socioeconomic statuses to understand Medicare therefor allowing them to make the best choices for themselves.
Additionally, SHIPs provide assistance with fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeal rights, and enrollment in low-income protection programs that pay the Part B and/or Part D premium. SHIPSs are allocated funding by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Community Living (ACL). Last year, more than 7 million Medicare beneficiaries received help from SHIPs nationally.
During 2015, Belknap County ServiceLink, a program of the Partnership for Public Health, helped nearly 1,000 people with their Medicare needs. During that year's Open Enrollment, we counseled 250 people who saved a total of $156,000 by understanding their options and comparing the different plans.
One counseling session from two years ago stands out to me. I went to a local senior center to educate people on the importance of reviewing their prescription drug plan during open enrollment and to offer my assistance. A woman there allowed me to review her coverage with her. In doing so, it showed that her current prescription drug plan was not covering one of her medications in the upcoming year. I assisted her in finding a plan that did and she switched to that plan, saving her $46,000.
SHIP programs are nationwide. In New Hampshire, they are located at the ServiceLink offices. Each county has at least one SHIP counselor. For those that have benefited by this program and for those that hope to in the future, please contact your Congressperson and let them know how important this program is to you, to seniors and to individuals with disabilities. You can find your contact person at the National Council on Aging website: www.NCOA.org under ACTION CENTER.
Medicare Specialist, SHIP Counselor
ServiceLink Resource Center
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