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American Institutes for Research Highlights Need to Fix Complex Medicare Enrollment System

A new set of issue briefs by the Center on Aging at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) highlights the growing complexities facing thousands of people each day as they become eligible for Medicare. One of the briefs, Medicare Enrollment Maze Puts Older Americans at Risk for Financial Penalties and Coverage Gaps, examines a relatively recent trend where the age of Medicare eligibility and the age of retirement have moved further apart.

People receiving Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in Part B. Increasingly, however, many Americans are working longer, delaying retirement, and deferring Social Security benefits. Unlike those who are auto-enrolled, these individuals must make an active Medicare enrollment choice. Deciding whether and when to enroll in Medicare involves many complex rules and inappropriately delaying Part B can lead to a lifetime of higher Part B premiums, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed care.

The brief spotlights possible solutions to simplify Medicare enrollment, including passing the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act of 2016 (H.R. 5772). The BENES Act would require the federal government to provide two notices to individuals nearing Medicare eligibility about Part B enrollment: one sent six months ahead of a person’s Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and another notification one month before an individual’s IEP. The bill also seeks to prevent problematic enrollment mistakes through adequate education and clarification of Part B enrollment rules.

Read the AIR blog post about the issue brief here.

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