50 Organizations Call on CMS to Ease Medicare Enrollment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

February 5, 2021  
•  Press Releases
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–Lapsed Enrollment Flexibilities Put People with Medicare at Risk–

Washington, DC—Today, the Medicare Rights Center and 49 state and national organizations urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to reinstate two policies to help people sign up for Medicare amid the COVID-19 pandemic: a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for Part C and Part D and Equitable Relief for Premium Part A and Part B.

CMS established these enrollment pathways last May, appropriately promoting access to coverage and care during the COVID-19 public health crisis. However, the enrollment flexibilities were allowed to lapse shortly thereafter, despite clear and ongoing needs.

“On our national helpline, we continue to hear people who are trying to quickly gain access to their Medicare, but cannot,” said Medicare Rights Center President Fred Riccardi. “Most have to wait several months to sign up and then several more for their Medicare coverage to begin. These are dangerous gaps in coverage—particularly for at-risk populations during a pandemic.” 

The Medicare Rights Center is asking CMS to help by renewing and strengthening the SEP and Equitable Relief flexibilities. These policies should remain in effect through the calendar year in which the emergency period ends, at a minimum, and coverage should begin as soon as possible—no later than the first day of the month following enrollment. 

This commonsense solution aligns with the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response strategy, including its recent decision to create a federal Marketplace SEP that will allow more people to obtain coverage during the pandemic. We applaud this move and urge the Biden administration not to leave older adults and people with disabilities behind. 

Read the letter. 

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The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities.

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