WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations and U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committees, led a group of 24 senators in demanding that the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill include at least $52.1 million for the critical State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). In a letter to U.S. Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the senators emphasized that SHIPs – which provide free help to Medicare beneficiaries who have questions or concerns about their health insurance – are an integral resource for seniors and people with disabilities.
“We urge you to include at least $52.1 million for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This will allow SHIPs to continue their important role in serving as a trusted source of independent advice that helps seniors, people with disabilities and their families navigate Medicare, choose the plans that work best for them, and reduce their out-of-pocket costs,” wrote the senators. “We ask that you protect this critical program and support the 10,000 Americans turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare every day by providing at least $52.1 million in FY 2019 for the SHIP program.”
Maureen McIntyre, Executive Director of the State of Connecticut’s North Central Area Agency on Aging, said, “Understanding public and private insurance coverage is essential to the health and well-being of America’s older adults and people with disabilities. Educating consumers about their benefits and facilitating access to those benefits, the SHIPS are an essential piece of the health care continuum and the Area Agencies on Aging take this role very seriously.”
In Connecticut, the SHIP program, which is called CHOICES, helped 33,600 seniors, people with disabilities, and family caregivers last year find the health care program that works for them and their families. Connecticut received $509,000 in federal funding last year through the SHIP program. There are five regional offices that administer the program.
The following senators joined Murphy in sending the letter: U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bill Nelson (D-Fl.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The full text of the letter is available online and below:
The Honorable Roy Blunt The Honorable Patty Murray
Chair, LHHS Subcommittee Ranking Member, LHHS Subcommittee
Senate Appropriations Committee Senate Appropriations Committee
136 Dirksen Senate Office Building 125 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray,
As you begin work on the FY 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, we urge you to include at least $52.1 million for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). This will allow SHIPs to continue their important role in serving as a trusted source of independent advice that helps seniors, people with disabilities and their families navigate Medicare, choose the plans that work best for them, and reduce their out-of-pocket costs.
State Health Insurance Assistance Programs operate in every state, territory and the District of Columbia. SHIPs provide essential information through enrollment clinics, "Welcome to Medicare" events, and informational seminars. With 3,300 state and local offices, they provide free one-on-one, personalized, and unbiased counseling to help individuals understand the range of options they face and get the most of their Medicare benefits. Last year, SHIPs assisted 7 million Medicare beneficiaries. At its current funding level of $49.1 million - less than a dollar for every person enrolled in Medicare - it is critical that we at least restore funding to the FY 2016 level of $52.1 million as more and more Americans become eligible for Medicare.
We all have constituents trying to decide which Part D prescription drug plan would best meet their needs or asking for help in comparing Medicare Advantage plans and provider networks. They frequently contact our offices to ask how to report suspected fraud, appeal a plan decision or obtain low-income assistance. In 2018, SHIPS will also help explain the process of receiving new Medicare cards and changes in consumer protections such as special enrollment periods. SHIPs are a critical source of information for our constituents. With 10,000 Americans turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare every day, we should be expanding the ability of SHIPs to meet growing needs, not eliminating their ability to serve those who need assistance.
We ask that you protect this critical program and support the 10,000 Americans turning 65 and qualifying for Medicare every day by providing at least $52.1 million in FY 2019 for the SHIP program. We thank you for your consideration of this request.
Michael F. Bennet
Cory A. Booker
Benjamin L. Cardin
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Christopher A. Coons
Margaret Wood Hassan
Angus S. King, Jr.
Joe Manchin III
Edward J. Markey
Gary C. Peters
Chris Van Hollen