State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)


The Administration for Community Living, Office of Healthcare Information and Counseling manages the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) grant. The SHIP mission is to empower, educate, and assist Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers through objective outreach, counseling, and training, to make informed health insurance decisions that optimize access to care and benefits. The SHIP vision is to be the known and trusted community resource for Medicare information.

SHIPs conduct outreach by providing presentations, distributing information, conducting enrollment events, and participating in health fairs, senior fairs, and other community events. SHIP outreach helps to inform groups and individuals about Medicare benefits, coverage rules, written notices and forms, appeal rights and procedures, and more.

SHIPs provide free, in-depth, unbiased, one-on-one health insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers. SHIPs assist people in obtaining coverage through options such as Original Medicare (Parts A & B), Medicare Advantage (Part C), Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), and Medicare Supplement (Medigap). SHIPs also assist beneficiaries with limited income to apply for programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare Savings Program and Extra Help/Low Income Subsidy, which help pay for or reduce healthcare costs.

SHIPs recruit and train both volunteer and in-kind counselors to provide program services. SHIP counselors are highly trained and certified to help Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers with:

  • Informing about Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug coverage, and Medigap plan comparison or enrollments;
  • Explaining how supplemental insurance options (e.g. insurance plans for retirees) work with Medicare;
  • Providing information on long-term care insurance; and
  • Refering beneficiaries to agencies such as the Social Security Administration and State Medicaid offices for additional assistance.


SHIPs were created under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. 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 related to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance options such as: Medicare Supplement insurance, long-term care insurance, and managed care options. Authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, SHIP was transferred from CMS to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) in 2014. This transfer reflects the existing formal and informal collaborations between the SHIP programs and the networks that ACL serves.


There are 54 SHIP grantees (all states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). SHIP services are delivered by State Units on Aging or State Departments of Insurance in partnerships with their local Area Agencies on Aging and other aging and disability providers. The SHIP grant strengthens the capability of states and territories to support a community-based, local network that provides personalized counseling, education, and outreach to help achieve the program mission. Nationally, the SHIP oversees a network of more than 2,000 local sites and nearly 16,000 Team Members (staff, in-kind professionals, and volunteers). In addition to SHIP services, many grantees provide Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program services, which help Medicare beneficiaries protect, detect, and report healthcare fraud, errors, and abuse. 


This table shows the amount of federal SHIP grant funds provided to each grantee.

SHIP Performance

In the 2017 Grant Year (April 1, 2017-March 31, 2018) SHIPs:

  • Provided one-on-one health insurance counseling to more than 2,937,127 Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers, including 446,693 adults with disabilities.
  • Provided outreach to more than 3,468,778 individuals at public presentations, enrollment events, health fairs, senior fairs, or other community events.

SHIP Report to Congress:

Resources and Useful Links

The SHIP National Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) is a central source of information for and about the national program. The Center provides training, technical assistance, and additional resources in support of SHIPs across the nation. Individuals may visit the SHIP TA Center website to find their local SHIP and to learn more about SHIP volunteer opportunities, counseling or outreach provided in their community. 

The official U.S. government site for Medicare ( has useful tools that beneficiaries may use such as, the Medicare Plan Finder and Mymedicare.

Volunteer Risk and Program Management (VRPM) Policies: ACL has developed a set of policies to assist the SMP and SHIP grantees with managing their programs. The policies describe the governing principles and values that shape and guide Team Member involvement, set expectations regarding the management of volunteer programs, delineate core expectations of SMP/SHIP Team Members, and broadly describe what Team Members may expect from the SMP/SHIP. The purpose of these policies is to enhance the quality, effectiveness, and safety of SMP/SHIP services through the provision of guidance and direction to SMP/SHIP staff and volunteers. 

Managing Conflicts of Interest: ACL has developed 'Conflict of Interest: Identification, Remedy, and Removal' to provide technical assistance to SHIP/SMP/MIPPA programs and their partner Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) on how to avoid actual and perceived Conflicts of Interest (COI) and mitigate risk. 


Last modified on 03/02/2021

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