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News & Media

Help Save the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)

July 6, 2016

Dear Friends,

I want to bring to your attention a recent Senate action that puts thousands of Maine beneficiaries of the Medicare program at risk.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that eliminates all funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).   If this measure is approved in the House, it will dismantle the only program that provides free, unbiased, one-on-one counseling on Medicare benefits and coverage to older adults, people with disabilities and those who care for them.  It will take action by the House Appropriations Committee to keep this critical service alive.

I cannot impress on you enough the importance of this service.  Along with the other Agencies on Aging in Maine and the nation, Southern Maine Agency on Aging receives Medicare counseling referrals directly from the Social Security office, Maine Department of Health and Human Services office, medical practices, and pharmacies.  Our expert staff and 45 highly trained SHIP volunteers assist clients year-round in a myriad of ways—help with filing a claim for Medicare Part B reimbursement, troubleshooting a Medicare Part D medication denial or insurance concern, filing an application for Medicare Savings Program and much more.  During the past year, SMAA staff and SHIP volunteers conducted 143 Welcome to Medicare seminars at 15 sites across Cumberland and York counties that introduced 1,541 attendees to the intricacies of the Medicare system. We also helped 3,139 clients in 4,220 one-on-one reviews of their individual health insurance options to choose the best and most affordable plan for their needs. 

There is nowhere else people can get unbiased face-to-face attention to: answer Medicare questions; discuss their unique health insurance options;  get screened for public benefits that may help reduce out-of-pocket health care costs; and receive help completing and filing applications.  Of the 1,868 people we served during Medicare Open Enrollment between October 15 – December 7, 2015, SMAA documented out of pocket savings totaling $857,871; an average of $1,699 per Medicare beneficiary who reported their savings to us.  This is significant enough to make a positive difference in their quality of life.  Given the positive financial impact SHIP counseling has on Maine Medicare beneficiaries, it is astonishing that the program lost Senate funding.

You can help SHIP programs like the one here at Southern Maine Agency on Aging by contacting your congressional delegation to urge restoration of SHIP funding.


laurence gross signature



Laurence W. Gross
Executive Director

Contact Information

Senator Susan Collins
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2523

Senator Angus King 
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5344

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree 
2162 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-6116