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What Is Medicare SHIP and How Can It Help Me?
It’s no news that Medicare can be very complicated. It’s very easy to be confused about the different choices available and make mistakes that could result in inadequate coverage.
Years after signing up, your healthcare needs may require you to change your Medicare plans. With no one to guide you, you may wonder whether it’s possible to do so and how to go about it. Enter Medicare SHIP.
What Is Medicare SHIP?
Medicare SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) is a federal program that provides free, confidential counseling to you or your caretaker to help you answer your Medicare questions, give you unbiased advice, and help you make the best Medicare decisions.
SHIP counselors hold one-on-one sessions, online seminars, enrollment events, and over-the-phone conversations to help you navigate the complexities of Medicare.
Who are SHIP Counselors?
SHIP counselors are highly trained and have completed rigorous training programs. About 16,000 SHIP counselors living in local communities are available throughout the country. Some SHIP counselors are volunteers, while others are employed and paid by government agencies and non-profit.
SHIP counselors do not sell insurance plans. They don’t work for insurance companies and do not profit from helping you, enabling them to give you unbiased, confidential, quality, and personalized assistance with anything Medicare.
In Which States is SHIP Available?
SHIP is available in all 50 states. Although a federally-funded program, SHIP is managed by the states and is under the department of aging in some states and the insurance department in others.
SHIP has different names in some states, such as CLAIM (Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri) in Missouri and SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) in Florida. In Virginia, SHIP goes by Virginia Insurance Counseling & Assistance Program (VICAP) under the Virginia Department for the Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
What Kind of Help Does SHIP Provide?
SHIP counselors help with questions and offer advice on various aspects of Medicare. Thousands of people benefit from SHIP every year. You can also get help with:
Medicare enrollment periods and when to enroll
The different Medicare options, differences between them, and what’s covered under each
Choosing the right Medicare plan that works best for you
Whether you need Medigap and Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan
How to make changes to coverage
The out-of-pocket cost of your current or future plan
Comparing the cost of plans
Eligibility to access help with premiums and expenses
How to appeal if you’re denied
And many more!
SHIP is free and available to you if you’re 65 or older. You must also be a citizen of the United States or a legal resident who has lived in the country for a minimum of 5 years.
You can also access SHIP if you’re younger than 65, but only if you have a disability or end-stage renal ailment. Visit the SHIP website to find a center or workshop near you!
IRMAA Life Event Form
First, you need to obtain and fill out a life-change event form so that you can notify the Social Security Administration of this event.
A copy of the page in the letter that you received from the Social Security Administration
Next, you need to obtain the page describing the year and income that the Social Security Administration is trying to penalize you for to raise your Medicare rates. Make a copy of that one page that shows the income you made in 2018; then, you can package that copy with the other items.
Estimated current year income
Moving forward, you need to write down your estimated income for 2020. You can type this up and incorporate you and your spouse's expected income. Income includes Social Security income, interests on savings, 401K, and more. At the bottom of the page, add the total income for you and your spouse. Highlight it with large font, so it is clear to the Social Security Administration.
Proof of life-event
Lastly, you need proof from your employer or another party that you have experienced a life-changing event that has had an impact on your income. Whether that comes in the form of a letter, an email, or another type of communication, it's necessary.