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Medicare Rights Center Highlights Key Solutions to Common Beneficiary Challenges

March 5, 2015  
•  Press Releases

Medicare Rights Center Highlights Key Solutions to Common Beneficiary Challenges 
– Report Explores 2013 National Helpline Trends and Identifies Policy Solutions –

New York, NY—Today, the Medicare Rights Center released its annual helpline trends report, which outlines the top concerns facing people with Medicare as told through the thousands of compelling stories heard on Medicare Rights’ national helpline.

“This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, which has guaranteed access to basic health benefits for millions of older adults and people with disabilities,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “This analysis of our national helpline data makes clear that too many people with Medicare are burdened by high health care costs, and too many struggle to navigate the complexities of the Medicare program. But there are straight-forward solutions for alleviating these challenges and strengthening the Medicare program as a whole.”

The report, Medicare Trends and Recommendations: An Analysis of 2013 Call Data from the Medicare Rights Center’s National Helpline, includes an in-depth discussion of the top three issues heard on Medicare Rights’ helpline. Each issue is accompanied by a variety of policy solutions, which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), state agencies, insurers, and others can pursue to improve the Medicare program for the more than 50 million people it serves.

Out of more than 15,000 questions posed by older adults and people with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals serving them in 2013, three trends stood out among the questions from helpline callers:

  • Navigating Medicare coverage and denials of coverage: The lack of clear information, inefficient appeals systems, and changing coverage rules, particularly in Part D prescription drug plans, from year to year present barriers to accessing needed medical care.
  • Transitioning into the Medicare program: Insufficient or inaccurate information can lead to late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage, strained finances, and delayed treatment for many people who are newly eligible for Medicare.
  • Affording coverage and care: Many callers struggle to afford care or premiums for coverage. Half of all Medicare beneficiaries live on $23,500 or less per year, yet, on average, Medicare households devote 14 percent of their budgets to health care costs, compared with just 5 percent among non-Medicare households.

Drawing directly from Medicare Rights’ 25 years of experience serving people with Medicare and their families, the report includes a comprehensive set of policy recommendations intended to improve access to affordable health coverage for beneficiaries. Among these are expanded access and automatic enrollment in Medicare low-income assistance programs, more streamlined and accessible appeals processes, better education for all Medicare stakeholders, improved communications for people transitioning into Medicare, and more.

Baker concludes, “While Medicare has served older Americans and people with disabilities well during the past 50 years, now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Members of Congress and the Administration should view this report as a continuing call to action. Now is the time to seek solutions that make Medicare a fairer, simpler, and more affordable benefit.”

Read the report.

To contact Medicare Rights’ national helpline, call 800-333-4114.
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About Medicare Rights
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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