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On June 28, 1989, the Medicare Rights Center was created to help our country’s older and disabled population access their health care.

Take a look at our journey…so far.


25 Years of Getting Medicare Right

Historical Timeline

Medicare Rights Founded

The Medicare Rights Center was founded as "The Medicare Beneficiaries Defense Fund" in 1989 by Diane Archer. To this day, the organization works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities.

Early Advocacy

Throughout the early 1990s, Medicare Rights pushed for protections from some doctors who were overcharging their Medicare patients beyond the price that Medicare set for a particular service.

Heard on the Helpline

An article published in by Medicare Rights in 1994 outlines eight issues facing people with Medicare based on counseling provided on the helpline at the time. Medicare Rights still has its ear to the ground, pinpointing the various issues as told by the thousands of beneficiaries we speak to every year. Read about today’s issues in our latest report, Medicare Trends and Recommendations.

Rebrand and New name

The organization takes on a new look and becomes the Medicare Rights Center. Today, the Medicare Rights Center is synonymous with ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities have access to high quality, affordable health care.

First Major Education Initiative

Medicare Rights releases its first national education initiative called “HMO Flash.” The definitive reference guide of the recently created Medicare HMOs (now called Medicare Advantage), this resource consisted of 28 tip sheets explaining what HMOs are, how to choose and enroll in a plan, and how to appeal denials of coverage. Much of the information can still be found on Medicare Interactive.

Website Launches

The Medicare Rights Center jumps on the internet wave and launches its first website. Beneficiaries and professionals come to the site to get Medicare information, sign up for newsletters, and purchase educational publications. Today the website is a key tool to broadcast the organization’s work.

Seniors Out Speaking (SOS)

Seniors Out Speaking (SOS) begins in Westchester, NY. This peer-to-peer educational program builds camaraderie, strengthens community-based organizations, and empowers older adults to become advocates for their own health care. SOS eventually expands nationally to become what is now called “Medicare Minutes.”

Medicare Savings Coalition

The "New York State Medicare Savings Coalition" launches to eliminate the systemic barriers that limit access to programs that help those with low-income afford their health coverage.The coalition works to ensure that eligible older and/or disabled New Yorkers with Medicare are informed of and enrolled in these programs.

Medicare Interactive

Medicare Interactive launches with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others. Last year, Medicare Interactive reached 1.1 million visitors with Medicare information and support.

Visit Medicare Interactive to find answers to your Medicare questions.

Medicare Minutes

Medicare Minutes expand beyond New York State with support from the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, and others. With additional support from the Atlantic Philanthropies and others, Medicare Minutes are currently active in 10 states and reach more than 50,000 audience members each year with health insurance answers and support.

The Modern Era

Medicare Rights begins its current chapter with a new look. The tagline, “Getting Medicare right,” is a promise to the millions of people with Medicare, their caregivers, and the health care professionals who serve them.

Historic Partnership

With an historic joint grant of $1 million from the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Medicare Rights launches a partnership with the Food Bank for New York City to enroll as many New Yorkers as possible in programs that help those with low-income afford their health coverage. The two-year project results in the successful submission of 8,934 benefits and a total two-year value of $18.5 million.

Increasing Access to Benefits

Thanks to a paper released in 2010, Medicare Rights leads the charge to increase eligibility for and expand enrollment in an array of low-income Medicare programs, including Medicare Savings Programs and the Extra Help subsidy of the Part D drug benefit. Medicare Rights’ advocacy, catalyzing elimination of the asset test for these programs in New York State, continues to serve as a national model.

New York Duals Coalition

With support from the New York State Health Foundation and later support from Community Catalyst, Medicare Rights forges the "Coalition to Protect the Rights of New York’s Dually Eligible" to ensure that those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid are responsibly transitioned to new health insurance plans. Medicare Rights’ experience continues to influence and inform the implementation of duals demonstrations nationwide.

Sustaining Medicare's Future

Medicare Rights spearheads a campaign to protect Medicare from proposals that would undermine its promise to some 50 million Americans. Fact sheets such as "Medicare: Strong and Built to Last" sound a clarion call to galvanize policymakers to preserve the critical program.

Medicare Rights University

Medicare Rights University launches as a four-level Core Curriculum and Special Topics section to help professionals more effectively meet the needs of their employees, retirees, clients, and patients with Medicare. Subscriptions start at $50, and new users are encouraged to try the Free Assessment.

Helping One, Helping All

For 25 years, the Medicare Rights Center has helped people obtain the health care they need. Through our direct counseling, advocacy, and policy work, we increase access to care for our helpline clients, and for all people with Medicare.

Mary Singleton contacted the Medicare Rights Center
about a Part B premium penalty she was being charged.
She was told that she should have signed up for Part B
eight years prior and that she would now have to pay an
extra $80 per month.

After speaking with Ms. Singleton about her history, it
turned out she was eligible for a special enrollment
period to sign up for Part B and have the penalty waived.
We navigated the process together and now she has
Part B without a penalty.

When Ivan Valtchev contacted the Medicare Rights Center,
he had hospital and physician bills totaling almost $150,000
for heart surgery he had just undergone. He had recently
retired and immediately found himself in the hospital. As a
result, he had not enrolled into Part B.

Mr. Valtchev’s case had a lot of moving parts. In the end we
were able to fix a billing issue with the hospital where he
had his surgery; this took care of a large portion of his bill.
Because of the timing of his hospitalization, we were also
able to work with Social Security to have him retroactively
enrolled into Part B to take care of the remaining portion
of his bills.

Mr. J needed a wheelchair to regain his life and reached out to Medicare Rights
after a two-year struggle to get reimbursed for a Medicare-covered power wheelchair.

Even though his doctor deemed the power wheelchair necessary to support his
ventilator and reduce stress on his muscles, Mr. J had to charge the equipment to
his credit card at high interest rates because Medicare refused to pay. After
enduring a series of lengthy legal appeals and winning his final appeal, he still
received no reimbursement.

When Mr. J called us, we worked with Medicare for several months, and we got
Medicare to reimburse him $7,400 for his wheelchair.

Where Are They Now?

A lot of talented people have passed through the Medicare Rights Center. Many past staff members have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, government officials and leaders in other non-profit spaces. Many have kept in touch and are still a valuable part of the Medicare Rights community.

Gisela Alvarez

Mary-Ann Etiebet MD, MBA

Betty Duggan

Sophie Kasimow

Heather Bates

Chinwe Nwosu

Nicole Archambault

Doug Goggin-Callahan

Denise Xu


(Click the images below to watch the video clips or view larger versions of the photos.)

The Early Days

Medicare Rights as a Startup

Volunteer Margaret Woerner Testifies in Congress

Volunteer Margaret Woerner Testifies in Congress

In 1998 and Today: Advocates for Affordable Medications

In 1998 and Today: Advocates for Affordable Medications

Volunteers Hard at Work in the Early Days

The Helpline in 1992

Our Dedicated Volunteers Today

The Helpline Today

Medicare Debate During the 2000 Presidential Election

Medicare Debate During the 2000 Presidential Election

The First "Medicare and You Handbook" is Released

The First “Medicare and You Handbook” is Released

Helping Beneficiaries Understand Their Right to Appeal

Helping Beneficiaries Understand Their Right to Appeal

Medicare Rights Staff and Volunteers: A Lively Bunch

Medicare Rights Staff and Volunteers: A Lively Bunch

The Board in 1994

The Board in 1994

The Board Today

The Board Today