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About (SHIP)

What Is SHIP?

The Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is a free statewide health insurance counseling service for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.

The Department has developed a list of publications and other resources to assist you in making informed health insurance decisions (including materials for Annual Medicare Open Enrollment).

2024 Medicare Choices Guide

SHIP is not affiliated with any insurance company. 
SHIP counselors do not sell or solicit any type of insurance.

SHIP counselors are trained to:

  • Educate consumers and answer questions about Medicare, Medicare Supplement, long term care insurance, Medicare HMOs, private fee-for-service and other health insurance;

  • Organize and assist in filing Medicare and Medicare Supplement claims; and

  • Analyze Medicare Supplement and long term care policies.

Volunteer in your community.  Dedicated SHIP volunteers help people navigate Medicare.  Watch the video.

Interested in becoming part of SHIP? Here are some important organizational details!

All coordinators and counselors must be affiliated with a sponsoring organization. If you are interested in becoming a counselor, SHIP can put you in touch with a local SHIP sponsoring organization prior to training, if available. If no local sponsoring organization is available, SHIP may attempt to assist in recruiting an organization in that county.

  • The Illinois Department on Aging is the state agency that provides initial training, continuing education meetings and ongoing support for SHIP counselors, annual conferences, and program oversight. 

  • The sponsoring organization assists in recruiting counselors, providing office space and office support services such as telephone access, copying, and mailing. If your agency wants to become a SHIP sponsoring organization, please submit a completed application form for any interested volunteers.

  • The coordinator is the individual responsible for the local administrative aspects of the SHIP program, including promoting SHIP services, scheduling counseling sessions and responding to counselors' needs. This individual is usually a staff person at the sponsoring organization and acts as a "manager" for SHIP.

  • The counselor is a trained individual who meets with clients to provide objective information on health insurance, advocacy assistance, or referral if appropriate. Volunteers are the "backbone" of SHIP.

Mission Statement

To educate the citizens of Illinois about Medicare, Medicare supplement, Medicare managed care and long term care insurance. Individuals receive this information through public forums, presentations to various community organizations, senior citizen centers, radio, television and various publications. To provide accurate objective counseling, assistance and advocacy relating to Medicare, private health insurance and related health coverage plans. Counseling of the individual client focuses on specific information or assistance provided in one-on-one confidential sessions with certified counselors. Individual counseling sessions provide an effective way to objectively approach specific problems with claims and provide insurance policy analyses.

Program Description

The Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) was initiated in the fall of 1988 within the Illinois Department of Insurance. SHIP currently has 300 offices throughout the state staffed by a total of over 900 certified counselors. All offices are supported by local sponsoring organizations that offer services to Medicare beneficiaries. SHIP also provides a toll-free line for the Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. In April 2013, SHIP transferred from the Illinois Department of Insurance to the Illinois Department on Aging pursuant to Executive Order 13-1. SHIP activities align with the Illinois Department on Aging's mission to help older individuals maintain their health and independence while remaining in their homes and communities.

Program Accomplishments

  • Produce and distribute Medicare Supplement Premium Comparison Guides, an annual comparison of Medicare supplement plans and premiums;

  • Participate in the Illinois Partners for Medicare Consumers, a group of contractors and grantees of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, dedicated to educating and advocating for beneficiaries;

  • SHIP received the 1997 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services national award to "sustained achievement and excellence in providing insurance counseling and assistance to the citizens of Illinois."

Additional Information

  • SHIP  provides access to SHIP counseling services through the Area Agency on Aging network of offices throughout the state;

  • SHIP outreaches to Medicare beneficiaries by participating in health fairs, senior fairs, the Illinois State Fair and other outreach events.

Illinois Department on Aging
One Natural Resources Way, #100
Springfield, IL 62702-1271
(800) 252-8966; 711 (TRS)