Menu Close

State Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Programs (SHIP)

The State Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Programs (SHIP) is a free national program that provides counseling and education on the state level to Medicare beneficiaries and their families.

It helps seniors better understand their Medicare benefits so they can take advantage of everything Medicare can do for them.

SHIP is run by state governments, and each state has its own program. You can contact your state’s SHIP program to get help with Medicare questions.

The services offered by SHIP programs vary from state to state, but all programs provide free, unbiased information about Medicare and other health insurance options. Many states also offer counseling on prescription drug coverage and long-term care insurance.

SHIP counselors are trained to answer your Medicare questions, and they can help you understand your options and make the best choices for your situation. If you need help finding a doctor or understanding your Medicare benefits, SHIP can help.

Does Every State Have A SHIP Program?

Yes, and additionally there are SHIP programs in Puerto Rico, Guam, The District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Who Can Use The SHIP Services?

Anyone who is eligible for Medicare, is eligible to use the free services that are offered by the State Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program.

How SHIP Counselors Can Help Seniors

If you’re a senior on Medicare, you may have questions about your coverage. You may be wondering if you’re getting the best possible coverage for your needs and budget. SHIP counselors can help.

What Can SHIP Counselors Do For Me?

SHIP counselors are trained and certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). They offer one-on-one counseling to help you understand your Medicare choices.

SHIP counselors can:

  • Provide information about Medicare, including the different parts and how they work.
  • Information on how and when to enroll in Medicare.
  • Information on how to leave a Medicare plan.
  • Detailed information on the different parts of Medicare.
  • What steps you can take if you are not happy with your Medicare plan.
  • Help you compare Medicare Advantage plans, prescription drug plans, and Medigap policies.
  • Explanation of the differences between Parts A, B, C and D of Medicare.
  • Offer assistance if you have problems with your Medicare coverage.
  • Information on Medicare scams and how to avoid them.

These trained counselors can answer your questions about how Medicare can help you if you have to go to a nursing home or need long term care.

You can contact your state’s SHIP program by phone or in person. To find your state’s program, visit

Is There A Cost For Using SHIP Services?

No, there is no cost for using SHIP services. The program is funded by the federal government and offered at no cost to Medicare beneficiaries. SHIP counselors are trained and certified to provide unbiased information about Medicare.

They can help you understand your rights and options, but they cannot sell insurance or make recommendations about specific plans.

How To Prepare For Your SHIP Meeting

To make the most out of your meeting with a SHIP counselor, make sure to have the following information with you.

  • Your list of the doctors you are using.
  • A list of any prescriptions you are taking.
  • A list of your current medical conditions.
  • If you have any upcoming medical procedures scheduled.
  • What type of medical or assistive equipment do you use (i.e. hearing aid, eye glasses, cane, etc.)
  • Dental care needs, issues.
  • Your monthly / annual budget for healthcare costs.