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The SHIP in Illinois: Helping Seniors Make Educated Medical Insurance Choices

Maryalene LaPonsie | July 19, 2010

Medicare has seniors everywhere scratching their heads and trying to understand how their medical insurance works. To make Medicare and Medigap supplemental health insurance a little less mysterious, the federal government requires that each state maintain a State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (SHIP). These programs offer a gateway to resources for seniors and their family members who have questions regarding their health insurance costs and medical coverage.

Unbiased advice on Medicare, supplemental health insurance and more

The Illinois SHIP is the Senior Health Insurance Program run by the Illinois Department of Insurance. Offering free statewide assistance to Medicare eligible individuals and their families, SHIP utilizes a team of volunteers who are overseen by a variety of sponsoring agencies. Affiliated agencies include hospitals, senior centers, churches and units of government.

SHIP volunteers are thoroughly trained in all aspects of medical insurance and must not have any conflicts of interest within the insurance industry. Once trained, volunteers commit to ongoing education. With rigorous preparation and oversight, individuals receiving SHIP services can be assured of competent and confidential counseling that can help them make informed health care decisions.

Understanding your medical coverage

Seniors searching for health insurance can be overwhelmed with the number of policies and options available. SHIP volunteers are trained to be advocates for Medicare beneficiaries and their families.

They can provide information on:

  • Medicare Parts A and B
  • Medicare Part C HMOs (Medicare Advantage)
  • Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage
  • Medigap Supplemental Health Insurance Plans
  • Private Medical Health Insurance
  • Long Term Medical Insurance

In addition, volunteers can analyze your need for supplemental health insurance and long term medical coverage. After you have selected an appropriate plan, SHIP can help you organize paperwork and submit claims information to your Medicare and Medigap supplemental health insurance plans.

While SHIP volunteers can help you determine the level of medical coverage you need, it is important to know that they cannot recommend products from a specific insurer.

Contact SHIP for health insurance information

 SHIP offices not only provide free counseling services, they also offer seniors valuable resource information. As needed, seniors and their families can receive referrals to other state and federal agencies.

In addition, SHIP provides publications that can help seniors find the best health insurance for their needs. For example, the Medicare Supplement Premium Guide provides detailed information about what seniors can expect to pay for Medigap supplemental health insurance policies. Other publications review the Medicare enrollment process, list long term care insurance companies and explain Medicare medical insurance.

To request free and confidential assistance from the Illinois SHIP, you must be a state resident. Call toll-free 1-800-548-9034 to talk to a counselor or make an appointment.

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