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About the Center

A Central Source of Information

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) website is a central source of information for and about the national State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

The SHIP TA Center website helps members of the general public understand, locate, and access SHIP services in their state, territory, or commonwealth by providing a SHIP locator for the general public, video testimonials from SHIP volunteers and SHIP clients, and general Medicare news and information.

The Center provides services to SHIPs through the password-protected portion of the website, such as online SHIP counselor certification and training, a searchable resource library of materials produced by and for SHIPs, volunteer training and management materials, webinars, and an online calendar of events. If you are a SHIP looking for assistance, visit Resources for SHIPs for information about becoming a registered user of this website. 

Read more about the SHIP TA Center


Meet the SHIP TA Center Staff

Click on staff names for full bios and contact information. 

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Ginny Paulson has over thirty years of experience as a program director, grant manager, and trainer in government-funded programs, with the last sixteen at the national level of the aging network. She has served in her current role as the State Health Insurance Assistance Program National Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) director at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) since 2014, after having been NEI3A’s Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) National Resource Center director from 2007 - 2014.

Prior to these national roles, she worked at the state, regional, and local levels. Ginny managed Iowa’s statewide caregiver support and information & assistance programs at the state level at the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging (i4a) from 2002 - 2007. In that role, she helped form Iowa’s first Aging and Disability Resource Center, a collaborative effort of Iowa’s aging and disability referrals networks. She also launched new information & referral software statewide. From 1997 – 2002, she worked at Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging (now part of NEI3A), coordinating refugee outreach, caregiver support, information & assistance, and outcome measurement. She began her non-profit career in the field of children and family services. From 1992 – 1997, she managed local and regional childcare information & assistance programs at two community-based organizations in Iowa.

As the SHIP TA Center director, Ginny ensures that Center goals and objectives are achieved in accordance with Administration for Community Living (ACL policies), manages the overall grant processes, collaborates with leaders of other national resource centers, and coordinates the er provision of technical assistance to SHIPs. She oversees the development of the Center’s website, training events, publications, and other online tools. In her national roles, Ginny has supported the launch of three federal data systems. She has written or edited newsletter articles, website content, and other training materials for SMPs and SHIPs, including data reporting manuals, Medicare training manuals, and volunteer risk and program management (VRPM) policy support materials. From 2009 – 2014, she served on the national committee that oversaw the development and implementation of the national SMP and SHIP VRPM policies, and she continues to provide technical assistance regarding these policies. Ginny earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1986 from the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota.

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Angela Bell has nearly 20 years of experience in brand marketing, website design, and social media development. More recently, her professional interests have expanded to include video editing for interactive training and educating the public about the SHIP program. Angela joined the State Health Insurance Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NE3A) as Communications and Technology manager in 2015.

Before joining the Center, she was a hotel general manager for Choice Hotels and Marriott. During her seven-year tenure in hospitality management, she had positive outcomes in areas of profitability as well as increased guest satisfaction and employee retention. Here, she utilized social media guest capture strategy, utilizing Facebook, Twitter, and TripAdvisor feedback to improve the overall guest experience. She has also continued freelance graphic design, helping small start-ups, religious organizations, and non-profits strengthen their brand marketing, SEO, web and social media development, and promotions needs.

Her experience is enhanced by her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design from the University of Northern Iowa and her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Coe College.

As Communications and Technology Manager, Angela is responsible for password-protected Center news, videos, publications, and public-facing promotional material, such as the website content at, Facebook, YouTube, and paid social media campaigns. She also works closely with the Senior Medicare Patrol Resource Center to collaboratively publish the quarterly Medicare Messenger newsletter. Angela enjoys the challenge of translating complicated Medicare information into easy-to-digest visual imagery and short text.

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Dennis Smithe is the Client Services Manager at the SHIP Technical Assistance Center located at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging. In that capacity, Dennis provides training and technical assistance to SHIPs on interpersonal communication skills, provides technical assistance to support SHIP users of the national database (STARS), and responds to requests for assistance through the SHIP TA Center’s toll-free number. He has been at the SHIP TA Center since 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling with over 35 years of experience.

Before joining the SHIP TA Center, Dennis worked in child welfare in a variety of positions ranging from mental health counselor to senior management. His areas of specialty include using trauma-informed care principles to build a stronger agency culture, managing difficult behaviors, and utilizing soft skills to get better outcomes for clients. Dennis has served as a peer reviewer for the Council on Accreditation, reviewing human service agencies around the country. He has also served as a consultant for behavior management issues.

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Sue Choplin has twenty years of experience as a program manager, emphasizing developing and managing volunteer programs. She has served in her current role as the Event Manager at the State Health Insurance Assistance Program National Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) since 2018.

Before her current role, she worked first as a Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) regional coordinator, then shortly after became the statewide Coordinator of Volunteers and Training with the Iowa SMP (2008-2018). In these roles, she educated seniors and the public about healthcare fraud, errors, and abuse, and recruited and trained volunteers on the local and state level. Both positions included managing regional coordinators and volunteers, creating training, restructuring access to educational materials, and creating a new online volunteer management program to connect regional and state SMP staff. Sue streamlined efficiency by developing web-based training and orientation for all team members and simplified resource access. She was involved in implementing Volunteer Risk and Program Management (VRPM) policies and supporting and encouraging networking by setting up events and sharing successful practices between regional coordinators.

When Sue started working in the aging network as a regional senior meal coordinator at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) (then Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging), she worked directly with volunteers, clients, and their families. In this role, she coordinated home-delivered meals and managed activity centers in three rural counties.  

As the SHIP TA Center Event Manager, she coordinates all aspects of center events, from organizing and training to hosting events, including webcasts and virtual fairs. She supports SHIPs with their volunteer programs and outreach efforts.  

Sue works collaboratively with other SHIP TA Center representatives, the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Resource Center at NEI3A, and the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help promote the SHIP program.

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Sarah Fleming, LMSW is the Program Development Manager at the SHIP Technical Assistance Center. In this role, she is responsible for developing the Center’s technical assistance and training capacity to meet grant requirements and adapt to emerging trends. Key focus areas include analyzing SHIP program data, evaluating the center's services, assessing program needs, onboarding new SHIP leaders, and promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Other responsibilities include supporting grant deliverables, meeting grant goals, producing required reports, monitoring compliance, and assisting with grant renewal. Sarah is bilingual (English/Spanish) and works with translators and interpreters to make SHIP TA Center resources available in a variety of languages. 

Sarah holds a Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in community practice and social service administration from the University of Minnesota. She has also completed a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Minnesota, as well as a legal certificate in elder law from Mitchell Hamline Law School. Prior to her current role, Sarah spent five years working at Esperanza United, a federally funded technical assistance center in the field of domestic violence services. She also worked at Trellis, an Area Agency on Aging in the Minneapolis area, managing Older Americans Act Title III funding and services. In addition, she has professional direct-practice social work experience working with diverse older adults, children, and families to access public benefits. In her free time, Sarah volunteers as a Spanish-language interpreter for a free medical clinic in her local community.

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Schöne Rubio has over 13 years of experience in education and, since 2019, has focused on special populations and performance management. She now serves as Education Development Manager with the State Health Insurance Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (SHIP TA Center) at Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NE3A).

2009-2011, she was Assistant Director of Huntington Learning Center in Pearland, Texas. During her tenure, she was recognized for her ability to maximize staff potential and sent to advise other centers on best practices. In 2015, Schöne earned her Texas Educator Certificate in Early Childhood thru 6th Grade. At various points in her career, Schöne provided direct classroom instruction for Pre-kindergarten through 5th grade at two schools in the Houston area. In these roles, she developed innovative and dynamic lessons that improved learning outcomes for her students. In 2019 – 2023, Schöne was a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) using the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help learners with autism realize meaningful changes in their lives. She led seven patient care teams in collaboration with Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). In 2020 she was promoted to Lead RBT. In this position, she supervised over 17 staff members and created and implemented an RBT training scope and sequence. This training improved staff performance, which positively affected learner outcomes. In 2022, she earned a master’s degree in special education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. As of July 2023, she acquired over 1800 experience hours toward sitting for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. As a Lead RBT, she became increasingly interested in and focused on Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) within ABA. Given her staff performance and training background, OBM seemed to be a natural course. Using her experience, ongoing research in OBM, and natural aptitude for computers, Schöne transitioned into developing e-learning content for professional and personal use.  

As Education Development Manager, Schöne provides a wide range of education development activities to meet the grant goals and objectives of the SHIP TA Center. She enhances the staff and volunteer education experience by creating self-paced, interactive micro-training videos and tutorials on a range of content, including training manuals and webinars.

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Amy Taylor joined the SHIP TA Center in July 2023 as the Resource Manager. She is responsible for the Center’s Resource Library and helps produce written training materials, including the STARS data system manual.  

Before joining the SHIP TA Center, she had been a SHIP Medicare counselor in Virginia since the very first Medicare Part D Open Enrollment in the Fall of 2005. In her nineteen years with her previous employer, Valley Program for Aging Services, an Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, she had been a Case Manager, SHIP counselor, and, for the last thirteen years, the SHIP Program Manager and Volunteer Coordinator.

Amy has experience training counselors for Medicare counseling and using the STARS data system. She has written and delivered Medicare presentations to community groups and professional organizations. She has also worked with the national Volunteer Risk and Program Management policies at the local level.

Prior to working in the aging network, Amy worked for the Department of Health in Virginia. She graduated in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Living Sciences from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.


Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A). NEI3A has operated the SHIP Technical Assistance Center since 2014. 


The Medicare Rights Center is NEI3A's primary partner in the provision of direct services to SHIPs. The Medicare Rights Center has been helping people with Medicare understand their rights and benefits, navigate the Medicare system, and secure the quality health care they deserve since 1989 ( 


This project is supported, in part, by a grant (No. 90SATC0002) from the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.