State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Funding at Risk

As the director of the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, I want to raise awareness to the risk to State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) funding, greatly impacting Medicare services provided to Minnesota seniors and disabled Minnesotans under age 65 who receive Medicare benefits.

The Minnesota Board on Aging and Area Agencies on Aging provide the statewide Senior LinkAge Line® service, which is Minnesota’s federally designated SHIP.  Our role as SHIP is to provide individualized, objective Medicare counseling to help Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries decide what is best for them.

The President’s proposed budget does not provide funding for SHIP.  In addition, due to Congressional budget issues, we only received four months of current SHIP funding, instead of the full grant award.  This seriously threatens the Senior LinkAge Lines® ability to serve Minnesota’s nearly 956,000 Medicare beneficiaries, a rapidly growing sector of the population. Without SHIP funding, Medicare counseling efforts will dramatically change.

Also of concern is that Medicare Cost plans are scheduled to end December 2018, forcing 386,000 Minnesotans to make major decisions about their Medicare coverage.  Unless Congress acts, these decisions will have to be made without the assistance of SHIP (the Senior LinkAge Line®).  Medicare Cost plans are the most popular plan option in Minnesota.  They offer consumers the option of using Original Medicare benefits for services outside their plan network.

As Medicare becomes increasingly more complex, consumers must bear the burden of fully understanding all of their options and making good choices for themselves.  If beneficiaries do not choose the plan that is the best fit for them, they could enroll in a plan that does not cover their provider or prescription drugs, and they may have to pay a higher premium. If they miss their enrollment window, they may have to pay premium penalties for the rest of their lives.

Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers across the state increasingly have come to depend upon SHIP services.  The Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging is very concerned with any loss of SHIP funding.  We ask for your support to ensure that Congress fully funds SHIP and resolves the budgetary issues that threaten the funding of this critical program.

Thank you for your assistance with this important issue.


Linda Giersdorf, Executive Director

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“Exciting” and “Fast-Paced” Summertime

Many of you are probably familiar with the lyrics from the song Summertime, composed by George Gershwin in 1934 for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The first line of the song is Summertime and the livin’ is easy. Well, it’s summertime, but I’m not sure I’d describe the “livin” at MNRAAA as “easy” – “exciting” and “fast-paced” would be more appropriate.

Since our last newsletter, staff and board members participated in two Strategic Planning Retreats, facilitated by Aurora Consulting. Stay tuned for an upcoming issue of MNRAAA news to learn about our new mission statement, vision and strategic directions.

Staff is busy with launching age-friendly community projects in Porter and Kerkhoven. For additional information and community pictures, check out the Age-Friendly article.

MNRAAA participated in the launch of Juniper, previously known as the “Healthy Living As You Age” initiative. More information is included on here.

And, MNRAAA is in the process of hiring several new staff in response to the Return to Community Expansion, approved by the Minnesota legislature. Effective July 1, 2017, Return to Community expanded to include several new targeted groups at risk of spending down to Medical Assistance. We will be highlighting our new staff in the next issue of MNRAAA news.

I hope you will enjoy reading about the exciting happenings at MNRAAA. Feel free to contact us if you have questions or would like additional information about any of the articles in our latest issue of MNRAAA news.

To read the latest issue of MNRAAA news, visit: MNRAAA news

  • Linda
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Legislature Expands Return to Community Initiative

Effective July 1, 2017, the Return to Community Initiative expanded to include new targeted groups of individuals at risk of spend down to Medical Assistance. The expansion also includes a new self-directed caregiver support grant for family caregivers, administered through the Minnesota Board on Aging and its Area Agencies on Aging, effective July 1, 2019.

Stay tuned for the next issue of MNRAAA news to learn about the additional Community Living Specialists we are bring on board to work with the new targeted groups.

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Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH)

One-on-one caregiver support, education and counseling

REACH is an evidence-based intervention used by trained staff to support family members and others who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia. The goal of REACH is to provide much needed support to highly stressed family caregivers and will:

  • Teach caregivers how to reduce stress, solve problems and manage difficult behaviors.
  • Help caregivers feel confident in the care they provide and improve their ability to cope.

The REACH intervention is delivered over a two to three-month period including four sessions with the caregiver – either face to face or by telephone. Each session will address topics targeted to the caregivers’ unique situation based on an assessment of areas where the caregiver needs the most help. A caregiver notebook is also provided. The notebook is written in very easy to understand language, covering dozens of topics, ranging from the physical care of the person with Alzheimer’s to emotional and communication issues.

Additional REACH sessions may be provided based on caregiver need or desire. Closure of the active phase of REACH involves a discharge plan and review of formal and informal support services available to caregivers in their community.

MNRAAA, along with the other Area Agencies on Aging in Minnesota, was awarded a contract from the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, with funding from the MEDICA Foundation, to expand the availability of REACH to caregivers across the state. In addition to increasing access to this service, the funding from the MEDICA Foundation will assist with informing health systems about the benefits of REACH in supporting caregivers and developing a strong and reliable referral pathway.

To learn more about REACH in the MNRAAA service area or to become trained in REACH contact Elaine Spain at 507.387.1256, ext. 106 or

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