State Health Insurance Counseling

State Health Insurance Counseling And Assistance Programs

Known as SHIPS, these programs comprise 53 state programs with nearly 15,000 trained volunteers who offer unbiased, one-on-one counseling to help Medicare beneficiaries understand their health insurance benefits and options. They do not sell insurance or recommend policies, agents, or specific companies.

The programs are funded by the federal government. SHIPs can answer your clients' questions about:

  • choosing a managed care plan;
  • deciding between original Medicare (fee-for-service) and managed care;
  • understanding new health plan choices;
  • how to understand a Medicare bill;
  • how and whether to purchase additional health insurance (Medigap policy, long-term care insurance, etc.);
  • understanding how to appeal payment denials;
  • understanding Medicare rights and protections and how to submit complaints about medical care or treatment.

An example of a state SHIP program is Idaho's Senior Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (ISHIBA). Volunteer advocates throughout Idaho run the program. ISHIBA has a community education and outreach component. Coordinators make educational presentations on Medicare and other senior health insurance issues to community groups. They also disseminate information at hundreds of health and senior fairs throughout the state. In 1999 ISHIBA volunteers and staff served more than 49,000 clients (Idaho Department of Insurance, n.d.).

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.