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All aboard! SHIP benefits upgraded

New York Teacher

The Supplemental Health Insurance Program (SHIP), created by the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter more than 40 years ago to help retirees pay for out-of-pocket medical costs, continues to improve its benefits and increase its enrollment.

For an annual fee of $120, SHIP will supplement certain payments provided by RTC members’ New York City health coverage, up to a maximum lifetime benefit of $100,000. Spouses are eligible for the same benefits for the same fee.

Retirees must enroll in SHIP within the first year of retirement.

Supplemental benefits include ambulance transport, hearing aids, customized orthopedic shoes, surgical stockings and private-duty nursing. Benefits are improved or new benefits are added approximately every two years.

The dental benefit, SHIP’s most popular benefit, now has an annual reimbursement of $400, up from $300.

The lifetime maximum reimbursement for the orthopedic shoes/orthotics benefit is now $3,000, up from $2,000. SHIP reimburses out-of-pocket expenses for orthotics up to $300 per calendar year. With the increase, members may file for reimbursement for this expense for 10 years.

There is a new lifetime maximum benefit of $3,000, up from $2,000, for surgical or compression stockings as well. Users of compression stockings may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses up to $200 per calendar year, adding five years for a total of 15 years in which members may claim this benefit.

SHIP has improved its turnaround time for reimbursements, too. “Technological improvements and creative leadership over the last year have enabled the SHIP staff to expedite the processing of claims, which are now finalized in a matter of days,” said Tom Murphy, the RTC chapter leader.

As new retirees discover the program’s benefits, SHIP enrollment continues to grow. There are 87,704 retired UFT members and their spouses enrolled in SHIP and 17,785 claims were filed last year.

No medical examination is required for enrollment. The fee is paid by a $10 pension deduction each month ($20 for members whose spouse also is enrolled). For retirees who prefer to pay annually by check, there is an additional $30 administrative fee.

Designed by retirees for retirees and self-funded by the members, SHIP is managed by a seven-member board of trustees — three are members of the RTC Executive Board and four are members of the UFT Executive Board. Patricia Rojas took over last year as director of SHIP after the retirement of longtime director Irene Lospenuso.

To enroll, a retiree must be receiving a pension check and must be covered by a primary health plan. If eligible for Medicare, a retiree must be enrolled in Parts A and B. After a retiree enrolls in SHIP, benefit eligibility begins on the first day of the month in which the member retired.

Because SHIP is a supplemental program, it requires those who enroll to apply for benefits only after primary payments have been made. The exception is the catastrophic major medical plan sponsored by the New York State United Teachers, the UFT’s state affiliate, which is secondary to and paid after SHIP.

Because SHIP is separate from your primary health plan, you must notify the program of any changes, such as a new address, a divorce or death.

Visit SHIP for answers to many questions and a booklet detailing the program, a full description of each benefit, claim forms and instructions for filling out the forms. Additional information is available by calling the SHIP office at 212-228-9060.