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Medicare Rights Welcomes Passage of Key BENES Act Provisions

December 22, 2020  
•  Press Releases
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Washington DC—The Medicare Rights Center welcomes passage in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives of key provisions of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477).

Included in the year-end spending bill, these policies will update Medicare enrollment rules for the first time in over 50 years to end lengthy waits for coverage, expand critical administrative flexibilities, and inform future policymaking on enrollment period alignment.

The bipartisan BENES Act was introduced in the 116th Congress by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN) and by Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN).

“Thanks to the BENES Act’s congressional champions—Senators Casey and Young and Representatives Ruiz, Bilirakis, Schneider, and Walorski—as well as House and Senate leadership, the committees of jurisdiction, and dedicated congressional staffers, millions of Americans will be able to avoid enrollment pitfalls of the current system and more easily connect with their earned Medicare benefits,” said Medicare Rights Center President Fred Riccardi. “We are profoundly grateful to our pro bono partners at King & Spalding, along with the bill’s many stakeholders and supporters, for their efforts to advance these lasting and vital Medicare improvements.”

The adopted BENES Act’s policies will modernize Medicare enrollment in several important ways:

  • The bill eliminates the up to seven month-long wait for coverage that people can experience when they sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period (GEP) or in the later months of their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Beginning in 2023, Medicare coverage will begin the month after enrollment.
  • It reduces barriers to care by expanding Medicare’s authority to grant a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for “exceptional circumstances.” A long-standing flexibility within Medicare Advantage and Part D, in 2023 this critical tool will be available to facilitate enrollments program-wide, enhancing beneficiary access and administrative consistency.
  • To further maximize coverage continuity and ease transitions to Medicare, the bill directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify ways to align Medicare’s annual enrollment periods. HHS is to present these findings in a report to Congress by January 1, 2023.

The Medicare Rights Center applauds the inclusion of these and other changes in the spending bill that will strengthen Medicare as well as beneficiary health and economic security.

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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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