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Medicare Rights President Fred Riccardi Testifies to Congress About the BENES Act, Medicaid Transportation Services

January 8, 2020  
•  Press Releases
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Washington, DC—Today, Medicare Rights Center President Fred Riccardi testified at a hearing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health titled “Legislation to Improve Americans’ Health Care Coverage and Outcomes.”

In his testimony, Mr. Riccardi urged Congress to pass the bipartisan, bicameral Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (H.R. 2477) without delay.

The BENES Act is urgently needed to modernize and simplify the Medicare Part B enrollment process. Currently, far too many people make honest mistakes when trying to understand and navigate this confusing system. The consequences of such missteps are significant—including late enrollment penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed services.

“Unfortunately, many people do make mistakes. Year after year, among the most frequent calls to our National Consumer Helpline are from older adults and people with disabilities eligible for Medicare who inadvertently and through no fault of their own failed to enroll in Part B on time and are experiencing severe repercussions,” said Mr. Riccardi.

Introduced by Representatives Ruiz (D-CA), Bilirakis (R-FL), Schneider (D-IL), and Walorski (R-IN), the BENES Act would help prevent these costly errors. It would fill long-standing gaps in outreach and education, eliminate needless breaks in coverage, and inform future policymaking on enrollment period alignment. The BENES Act’s long overdue, commonsense changes would better empower people who are approaching Medicare eligibility to make optimal, timely coverage decisions that build their health and economic security.

Mr. Riccardi also urged Congress to prioritize the Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act (H.R. 3935) for passage this year. Led by Representatives Carter (R-GA), Cardenas (D-CA), Graves (R-GA), and Bishop (D-GA), the bill would strengthen health care access for people with Medicaid—including some of the 12 million enrollees who are also eligible for Medicare—by codifying Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) as a mandatory benefit in the Medicaid statute. Currently mandatory by regulation, Medicaid NEMT facilitates access to medical services and appointments for low-income beneficiaries with high health needs who have no other means of transportation—helping them receive the care they need to manage their conditions and improve their outcomes.

“To improve the health and financial well-being of current and future Medicare beneficiaries, the Medicare Rights Center urges Congress to pass the BENES Act and the Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act this year. These critically needed legislative solutions would help an ever-growing number of Americans make informed Medicare enrollment choices and stay healthy in their homes and communities,” said Mr. Riccardi.

The full written testimony is available here.

Contact: Mitchell Clark – mclark@medicarerights.org

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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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