This is a message from the Secretary of Aging.
As you may know, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) operates in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and has been offered in Pennsylvania for 24 years. Known in our state as the APPRISE Program, coordinators and volunteers have provided older adults, persons with disabilities, and their families with assistance by answering questions about Medicare, helping them to navigate a very complex system, and supporting their efforts to enroll, file an appeal, or reconcile an issue.
Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee completely eliminated funding for SHIPs in their fiscal 2017 budget. Now it is up to the House Appropriations Committee to decide the fate of this critical program. While we at the Department of Aging appreciate that the committee considered increasing funding for elder justice activities, we are deeply concerned that the committee simultaneously proposed eliminating $52.1 million in federal funding for SHIPs. For Pennsylvania’s APPRISE Program this translates into $2,169.481, a cut that would leave 2.5 million Medicare beneficiaries with nowhere to turn.
As the State unit on Aging, the department sent a letter to key federal legislators informing them of our concerns and requesting their support in ensuring that the SHIP is fully funded so that critical supports and services are continued for older Americans who need them most.
At a time when the aging population is experiencing significant growth, the federal government should be preserving funds for services and supports that benefit older Americans rather than eliminating them. Please consider taking action by telling members of Congress to protect the SHIP.