Vital program for all seniors

To the editor:

I am very concerned about the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) FY17 budget elimination that was recently passed by the Senate Labor-Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee and will soon be voted on by the House. I can personally attest that this is a vital program for not only senior citizens but all Medicare recipients. As a Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) counselor or SHIP counselor for the past 10 years, I assist Medicare beneficiaries almost daily with the Medicare maze: understanding, enrolling, comparing, informing, etc. of client’s options. This is the only program in the state that provides free training to volunteers who then provide free, unbiased, one-on-one benefit options and information counseling to seniors and people with disabilities and their families that are Medicare eligible.

As a MMAP counselor, I regularly attend workshops and webinars provided by SHIP funding to keep my training up to date, which enables me to provide free public presentations and one on one counseling to Medicare beneficiaries in Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw counties. I even receive many calls from out of my area, referred to by a family member or friend that I’ve helped, because the need is so great, but the resources are not. My client contact has more than tripled since I became a MMAP counselor because of the need of Medicare information/guidance. Clients are often over whelmed, misinformed or not informed at all of their Medicare options, which results in costly services, non-services and or penalties. Many of these individuals are on fixed incomes and can ill-afford these kinds of costly outcomes. The overwhelming gratitude and shear relief expressed from beneficiaries after a clear explanation of their Medicare options and how it works keeps me volunteering year after year. Knowledge is very empowering and can help individuals to help themselves if done correctly, as the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or MMAP has and is doing for our Medicare eligible population.

In the coming days, the House Appropriations Committee will consider a bill for the SHIP or MMAP 2017 fiscal year funding. If you would like more information regarding this legislation funding issue or to voice your opinion, you may contact Representative Dan Benishek at (202)225-4735 or email him at benishek.house.gov.

Jean Fettig

Pelkie