State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)

Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

What is a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)?

SHIP programs provide information for people who are eligible for, or currently insured by, Medicare. They offer technical assistance for Medicare participants including answering any of your loved one’s questions, whether they are small or large.

How does SHIP work?

Each state determines which Medicare insurers can insure their Medicare eligible citizens. SHIP programs are not associated with insurance companies and are funded by grants from federal agencies. Because of this:

  • They provide information free of charge.
  • Questions are answered objectively.
    • There is no bias, only what is best for your loved one to know.
    • This helps your loved one to make a well informed choice without any pressure.

SHIP staff members and counselors:

  • Put on community presentations to keep people updated about new Medicare information.
  • Meet with groups to share information in person and in print.
  • Participate in community and health events to assure people hear about any Medicare changes.

What can SHIP help with?

Your loved one can contact their state’s SHIP office to get information about Medicare eligibility and choose their best insurance option.

  • They can get help with choosing the right Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap (Medicare Supplemental Insurance), and Medicaid benefits.
  • SHIP counselors are available to guide participants on saving money on health care expenses.

When your loved one enrolls in Medicare, they can then use the SHIP program’s services to:

  • Have someone provide individual guidance about choosing a plan during open enrollment.
  • Conduct a side-by-side comparison of the available Medicare plans.
  • Learn about supplemental and long-term care insurance.
  • Be referred to their state’s Medicaid and Social Security offices.

These services continue as long as a person is enrolled in Medicare.

How do I contact my local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)?

Find your local SHIP at the SHIP National Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) website.

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