SHIBA celebrates 40 years of free, unbiased help with Medicare

Thursday, November 14, 2019

From the WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) in Washington state. Also known as SHIBA, it’s a network of more than 400 volunteers and 20 nonprofit sponsors who help Washington’s 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries with their health care choices.

Skagit County volunteers celebrate incorporating with
the Office of the Insurance Commissioner circa 1978.

SHIBA, operated by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, was the first program of its kind in 1979.

It was started in 1976 by a grassroots group of volunteers in Skagit County who wanted to help people understand Medicare and related policies, and funded by the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Three years later, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner launched the group as a statewide program called SHIBA, based on its success in Skagit County. I

n 1979, SHIBA had 25 locations and 250 volunteers statewide.

Washington state’s SHIBA program inspired the federal government to create a national model, called State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP). In 1990, funding was authorized to create similar programs in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, Guam, Washington DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In 2018, SHIBA volunteers helped:

  • 94,000 people with Medicare and other health care choices
  • 108,000 people at more than 3,200 education and outreach events
Medicare open enrollment ends on December 7, 2019. Find free, unbiased Medicare counseling near you or call us at 800–562–6900.


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