How SHIPs Can Help With Your Medicare Questions and Problems


MEDICARE CAN BE made complex. It’s simple to make mistakes when registering that could result in lifelong penalties or coverage gaps, and people who lose their tasks after age 65 have an extra layer of complexity. Everybody on Medicare has the chance to pick a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage strategy during open enrollment each year, and the plan you choose could make thousands of dollars of distinction in your out-of-pocket expenses. Low-income people frequently do not realize that they’re eligible for extra aid to pay Medicare drug costs. And if your care or drug is denied, you can appeal and battle back. You can get assist with all of these complex Medicare issues from your State Medical Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP.

What Is a SHIP?

This federally moneyed program is managed by the states and provides free therapy to assist with Medicare questions and decisions. Every state has a SHIP program (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands). The SHIP is based in the department of aging in about two-thirds of the states, and in the insurance department in the other third, states Rebecca Kinney, director of the Workplace of Healthcare Details and Counseling for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Being Providers’ Administration for Neighborhood Living, which disperses the cash to the states. “We want to assist people to comprehend Medicare, sort through their options, and get registered in the plans that will work best for them,” says Kinney. “The goal is educating and empowering people to get the finest out of their Medicare, both through individual counseling and public outreach.”

There have to do with 16,000 SHIP counselors throughout the country, who have completed a rigorous training program, says Ginny Paulson, director of the SHIP National Technical Help Center, which provides SHIPs with information and training resources. About half are volunteers and half are paid staff of a federal government firm or not-for-profit. There are SHIP-trained individuals in area companies on aging, senior centers, senior real estate complexes, local assistance organizations, and medical facilities. For instance, Illinois SHIP has about 1,000 counselors in over 300 sites, including about 50 in training at Cook County Medical facility, says Sandy Leith, SHIP director for the State of Illinois Department on Aging.

SHIP counselors answer Medicare concerns over the phone and also hold workshops and one-on-one sessions to help people with their Medicare choices –– and they have been adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions this year. They have various names in different states, such as HICAP in California (Health Insurance Coverage Counseling and Advocacy Program) and SHINE in Florida (Portion Health Insurance Coverage Requirements of Elders), and Minnesota utilizes SHIP money to do Medicare counseling through the Senior LinkAge Line. To discover the SHIP program in your area, go to You can also get contact info for your regional SHIP by calling 800-Medicare.

“The entire facility of the program nationally is to get folks into the communities since they know the nuances of Medicare, and the Medicare Benefit plans and Medigap and different pieces of Medicare are very localized,” says Kinney. “That’s one of the factors SHIPs are so effective since they’re able to customize to the needs of their neighborhood.”

SHIPs can aid with questions about all levels of Medicare. “SHIPs are detailed –– they aid with registering in Medicare, understanding the registration periods, understanding what’s covered under Medicare, and the different ways you can get Medicare,” states Paulson. They can assist with Medicare Benefit, Medigap, and Part D questions, too. “They can also aid with out-of-pocket costs of Medicare, and they can aid with appeals,” she says.

SHIPs assist thousands of people every year with their Medicare problems, but many individuals still do not understand about them. Here are some methods that SHIPs can help with Medicare decisions and questions.

  • Open enrollment help.
  • Medicare enrollment concerns.
  • Special aid for lower-income individuals.
  • Medicare problems and appeals.

Open Enrollment Help

The busiest time for SHIP counselors is throughout open registration from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, when individuals can pick a Part D prescription drug strategy or Medicare Advantage strategy for the upcoming year. “Basically everyone on Medicare can do something during this time,” states Shannon Hohl, the Elder Medical Insurance Benefits Advisors program manager, which is Idaho’s SHIP program.

SHIPs typically use open enrollment seminars at a number of sites throughout their states and likewise provide individual therapy. In typical times, you’d bring a list of your medications and sit beside the therapist while she or he utilizes the Medicare Strategy Finder to assist you to pick the very best Part D or Medicare Advantage prepare for the year.

Since COVID-19 constraints, the counselors had to alter the way they fulfill, but they have been supplying individual therapy through Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Webex, where they can share computer screens and stroll through the Plan Finder’s outcomes together. They likewise work with adult kids who are assisting their parents. Some therapists get approval from Medicare recipients to log into their account and see their last 12 months of drug claims, which can assist when comparing the expense of the plans, says Leith.

For individuals who aren’t comfy with the innovation, the counselors may talk on the phone, get a list of their medications and mail the Strategy Finder results showing the premiums and out-of-pocket costs for their medications from the strategies in their area.

States have likewise been developing creative solutions to provide one-on-one therapy throughout the pandemic, states Maggie Flowers, the SHIP/MIPPA program supervisor for U.S. Department of Health and Human Being Solutions’ Administration for Community Living. “In Florida, they have been having some drive-through therapy. They prep the recipient beforehand, and after that, they come up in the cars and truck and have their proper gear on and they speak about the plan comparison,” she states.

The Illinois SHIP works with a Chicago organization called the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly to supply counseling and seminars in other languages, such as Chinese.

One-on-one counseling sessions can get booked up, so it’s a great idea to contact your local SHIP early in the open enrollment duration to make a visit. The SHIP programs are likewise holding virtual open-enrollment seminars and strategy to publish them on their websites, too.

Medicare Registration Questions

SHIPs likewise offer aid with Medicare sign-up issues. Unless you’re currently getting early Social Security advantages at 65, you require to proactively sign up for Medicare. Your sign-up decisions can be complicated if you’re still working past age 65 and have medical insurance through your company, especially if you lose your job and require to make choices quickly.

You likewise have several decisions to make about how to fill in the spaces in Medicare –– such as with a Medigap and Part D prescription drug strategy, or instead of standard Medicare you can have healthcare and drug coverage through a private Medicare Advantage strategy. The offered plans can vary by state and county, and SHIP counselors can help you assess your alternatives in your area.

“We attempt to reach people at age 64,” states Hohl. “They call us stating they’re planning to retire next year or will be turning 65 and let’s speak about what that suggests in regards to Medicare and your health insurance.” Her workplace holds several seminars each year for people who will register for Medicare (which are now offered online) and offers individual counseling, too. They also help people who are under 65 and are qualified for Medicare since of impairment or other medical conditions.

The Medicare sign-up problems ended up being more complicated when Social Security workplaces were closed since of COVID-19, specifically for people registering previous age 65 who typically couldn’t sign up online (the Social Security Administration recently changed the rules and is allowing post-65 people to sign up online). The SHIP National Technical Assistance Center has a handy guide for enrolling in Medicare during COVID at

Unique Aid for Lower-Income People

SHIP therapists can likewise help people figure out if they’re qualified for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs or other programs to help with their premiums and expenditures. Some companies do screening for low-income extra aid programs immediately as part of other services, but you can also contact the SHIP to discover if you are eligible for any programs. “Anybody who is struggling or concerned about their Medicare costs can contact us,” states Hohl. “Even if they don’t certify for a program, perhaps they could do a strategy review and conserve some cash.”

The SHIP counselors can also assist with the recertification documents for the programs to ensure Medicare recipients continue to get the additional aid. “The SHIPs do a great deal of extra work to assist you to remain registered,” says Kinney.

Medicare Problems and Appeals

SHIP therapists can likewise aid with Medicare coverage concerns, issues, and appeals if your healthcare or drug wasn’t covered –– either by Medicare or from a Medigap, Part D, or Medicare Advantage plan.

“If they get a Medicare Summary Notice (which is comparable to a description of benefits) and it states something isn’t covered and they do not understand why they can call Medicare but they can likewise call us and we can discuss what’s going on,” states Hohl. SHIP therapists have unique access to the 800-Medicare call center and a unique ID so Medicare knows they’re speaking to an experienced person, she states. The SHIP therapists might likewise contact the Medigap, Part D, or Medicare Benefit plans with concerns. “We may have the recipient on the phone and do a three-way call and assist them to translate what’s being stated,” she says.

In some cases, they can determine a mistake before needing to do an official appeal. “It could be a mistake on the service provider’s part, the method they coded it,” states Paulson. If they do require to appeal a choice, the SHIP counselors have been trained in Medicare’s specific appeals procedure.

“HICAPs assist Medicare recipients to appeal claim rejections for any clinically essential services, such as from mammograms, ambulance claims, to surgical treatments or other treatments, whether they remain in original Medicare Part A or B, or Medicare Advantage plans. HICAPs also assist with Part D prescription drug protection rejections,” says Tatiana Fassieux, education and training specialist for California Health Advocates, which is a nonprofit company that supports the state’s SHIP program (HICAPs) with advocacy, client issue resolution, and training. “HICAPs help through the very first 3 of five appeal steps and notify customers on how to proceed with the next 2.”

Bonnie Burns, a training and policy specialist with California Health Supporters, also helps people who called the HICAP after attempting to register for Medigap and were declined since the insurance provider didn’t know California ensured problem laws (in many states, Medigap insurance providers can decline you or charge more based on your health if more than 6 months have passed given that you registered for Medicare Part B, however, California law lets people sign up for specific Medigap strategies during the 60-day duration starting on their birthday each year, despite their health).

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