Medicare Trends and Recommendations:

An Analysis of 2014 Call Data from the Medicare Rights Center’s National Helpline

In 2014, the Medicare Rights Center’s (Medicare Rights) staff and helpline volunteers fielded more than 17,000 questions and issues through the organization’s national consumer helpline. Callers included over 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers across the country. As in previous years, callers were geographically and socioeconomically diverse, and needed help with a wide array of complex Medicare issues.

Medicare has provided guaranteed health benefits to millions of older adults and people with disabilities. These individuals and their families continue to rely on Medicare for basic health and economic security. In last year’s report, Medicare Rights highlighted our major helpline trends, including Medicare Part B enrollment issues for those new to Medicare, issues affording needed health coverage and care, and challenges faced by beneficiaries attempting to navigate the Part D appeals process. While these problems persist, Medicare Rights has also worked with partners to achieve important improvements to Medicare enrollment and appeals processes. For instance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released educational content to help employers better educate their staffs on Medicare transitions. In addition, CMS and Part D plan sponsors are investigating medication access issues in Part D through a pilot demonstration program.

This report will examine confusion with Part B enrollment rules and issues with the Part D appeals process. The issues discussed can, oftentimes, result in increased health care costs and problems accessing care. Though these trends represent some of the most complex and confusing issues for many Medicare beneficiaries—whose stories appear throughout the report—recommendations proposed here would help reduce the prevalence and severity of these common Medicare challenges.

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