This week, 73 state and national organizations representing older adults, people with disabilities, health insurers, unions, and health care providers expressed strong support for the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (H.R. 5772 and S. 3236) in letters to the bill’s lead House and Senate sponsors, Congressmen Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
This broad-based coalition writes, “The basic rules underpinning the Part B enrollment system were developed more than fifty years ago, when Medicare was first established…Through bipartisan, low-cost reforms, the BENES Act shields people with Medicare from steep premium penalties, fills needless gaps in coverage, and expands avenues for relief among those who mistakenly delay or decline Part B.”
An antiquated, overly complex Part B enrollment process contributes to costly enrollment mistakes among many people new to Medicare. In 2014, 750,000 Medicare beneficiaries were paying a lifetime late enrollment penalty because they waited too long to sign up for Part B, leading to an average increase of 30 percent in their monthly premiums. The BENES Act aims to prevent these costly enrollment errors.
According to the coalition letter, “[the BENES Act] fills long-standing gaps in notice and education for those approaching Medicare eligibility, aligns and simplifies Part B enrollment periods, and updates and expands existing mechanisms for those seeking reprieve. Taken together, these changes will help prevent costly enrollment slipups among the 10,000 people becoming Medicare eligible each day.”
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