This week, Medicare Rights expressed support for a formal process to update the “Welcome to Medicare” package and enhance education and understanding among newly eligible beneficiaries about enrollment considerations and rules. In a letter to Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-WA), leaders of the Health Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, we applauded this provision in the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016 (H.R. 5273), a bipartisan bill advanced by the Committee on Ways and Means.
Our national helpline fields nearly 17,000 questions each year. More than one in four of these calls concern enrollment, most often from individuals experiencing challenges enrolling in Medicare Part B. In 2014, the majority of these questions came from individuals who were navigating a specific hurdle or who did not understand enrollment periods. Many others declined Medicare Part B, questioned costs, inquired about eligibility, or presented some other challenge.
Enrollment errors affect tens of thousands of Americans in every state. Honest enrollment mistakes made by those delaying or declining Medicare Part B can lead to lifetime premium penalties, gaps in coverage, higher health care costs, disruptions in care continuity, and even tax penalties.
We strongly believe improved tools and educational content—like updates to the “Welcome to Medicare” package—can help to minimize these adverse consequences. Still, other advancements are needed to smooth the transition to Medicare for newly eligible beneficiaries, including filling long-standing notification gaps, modernizing and aligning enrollment periods, and standardizing relief processes.
Medicare Rights looks forward to working with Congress to pursue these and other solutions to ensure all individuals new to Medicare are prepared to make the enrollment decisions that are best for them.
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