Medicare Trends and Recommendations:

An Analysis of 2016 Call Data from the Medicare Rights Center’s National Helpline 

March 2018 | Samantha Morales and Julie Carter

Introduction and Summary

In 2016, the Medicare Rights Center’s (Medicare Rights) staff and helpline volunteers fielded more than 16,758 questions and issues through the organization’s National Consumer Helpline. Clients included Medicare beneficiaries, families, and caregivers across the country. As in previous years, clients were geographically and socioeconomically diverse, and needed help with a wide array of complex Medicare-related issues.

While these problems persist, Medicare Rights has worked with partners, policymakers, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to address them. To help prevent Medicare enrollment mistakes, for example, Medicare Rights developed the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act, federal bipartisan legislation (see text box on “The Benes Act”). Medicare Rights also led the advocacy effort for CMS to extend the Medicare Part B time-limited equitable relief opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in federal Marketplace plans instead of Medicare. We applaud CMS for extending this relief opportunity. Although these are important successes resulting from ongoing advocacy on behalf of beneficiaries, Medicare Rights continues to field many calls from individuals seeking other forms of Part B enrollment relief.

In this report, we:

  • Revisit Part B enrollment as a confusing process for people transitioning from other types of health insurance coverage.
  • Identify Medicare Advantage plan coverage and network issues.
  • Highlight Medicare affordability concerns due to escalating Medicare Part D drug costs.

As in previous years, our client stories appear throughout the report to illustrate the real life struggles for people with Medicare.

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