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Center for Integrated Programs (CIP)

Office of Healthcare Information and Counseling

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)


The SHIP program is intended for Medicare beneficiaries who prefer or need information, counseling, and enrollment assistance beyond what they are able to receive on their own. The mission is to strengthen the capability of grantees to support a community-based, grassroots network of local SHIP offices that provide personalized counseling, education, and outreach to assist Medicare beneficiaries with their Medicare related questions. SHIPs give presentations and distribute information to help groups and individuals learn about Medicare benefits, coverage rules, written notices and forms, appeal rights and procedures, and much more. SHIPs provide free, in depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families, friends, and caregivers. SHIPs answer questions about Medicare and assist people in obtaining coverage through options that include the Original Medicare program, Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plans, and programs designed to help people with limited incomes pay for their health care, such as Medicaid, the Medicare Savings Program, and the Low Income Subsidy. SHIPs also help people compare Medicare Supplemental (Medigap) insurance policies and explain how these and other supplemental insurance options—such as insurance plans for retirees—work with Medicare. In addition, SHIPs provide information on long-term care insurance and, when needed, refer beneficiaries to agencies such as the Social Security Administration and local Medicaid offices for additional assistance. Many SHIP counselors are volunteers who are trained and certified to help others navigate the Medicare and health insurance systems for older adults and some people with disabilities.

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The SHIP program provides grants to 54 grantees (all states, Puerto Rico, Guam, DC, and the US Virgin Islands) and oversees a network of more than 3,300 local SHIP programs and over 15,000 counselors, 57% of whom are highly trained volunteers. Two-thirds of the SHIP programs are located under the State Units on Aging and 1/3 are located under the State Departments of Insurance.


The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) was created under Section 4360 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 (Public Law 101-508). This section of the law authorized the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to make grants to States to establish and maintain health insurance advisory service programs for Medicare beneficiaries. Grant funds were made available to support information, counseling, and assistance activities relating to Medicare, Medicaid, and other related health insurance options such as: Medicare supplement insurance, long-term care insurance, managed care options, and other health insurance benefit information. In January 2014, authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, the SHIP program was transferred from CMS to the Administration for Community Living (ACL). This transfer reflects the existing formal and informal collaborations between the SHIP programs and the networks that ACL serves. At the community level, many SHIPs are either housed in, or create local partnerships with Area Agencies on Aging. Similarly, almost 50 percent of the SHIPs are co-located with the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program, which is also administered by ACL.

Funding History

2010 - $45 million
2011 - $50 million
2012 - $52.1 million
2013 - $51.9 million
2014 - $52.1 million
2015 - $52.1 million

2015 Funding for State Health Insurance Assistance Programs

Performance Data

Client contacts: Increased from 1,246,441 in 2005, to 2,891,784 in 2013.
Public-Media Events: Increased from 57,041 in 2005, to 87,262 in 2013.
Education: For FY 2013, the SHIPs reached approximately 5.3 million total persons through public and media outreach.
Counseling: For FY 2013, the SHIPs served over 2.6 million Medicare beneficiaries through one-on-one counseling.
Inquiries Received: Over 1,545,000 inquiries, including one-on-one counseling and
complaints regarding potential fraud, error or abuse, have been received from beneficiaries,
their families or caregivers as a result of educational efforts.

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Resources and Useful Links

The SHIP National Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) ( serves as a central source of information for and about the national State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). The Center provides training, technical assistance, and promotional activities in support of the national SHIP program and its 54 individual SHIP projects. The site allows one to locate a SHIP in his or her state.

The National Council on Aging, Center for Benefits Access ( helps organizations enroll seniors and younger adults with disabilities with limited means into the benefits programs for which they are eligible so that they can remain healthy and improve the quality of their lives.

The official U.S. government site for Medicare (

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Last Modified: 6/29/2015