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35 Organizations Join Together to Provide Recommendations to CMS on the “Welcome to Medicare” Package

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The Medicare Rights Center and over 30 other national and state organizations, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the National Association of Health Underwriters, submitted comments on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’(CMS) “Welcome to Medicare” packages in response to the agency’s request for feedback. These packages are for newly eligible older adults and people with disabilities who are automatically enrolled in Medicare.

Medicare Rights President Joe Baker said, “Consumer advocates, health plans, insurance agents, and health care providers all agree—we must do more to educate and support people new to Medicare who face complex enrollment decisions. There’s nothing partisan, political, or divisive about making sure people know when and how to sign up for the Medicare benefits they’ve earned.”

“We believe the primary goal of the ‘Welcome to Medicare’ packages should be to ensure that people new to Medicare avoid the harmful pitfalls, including increased health care costs and premiums, gaps in essential health coverage, and disruptions in access to needed care, often associated with honest Medicare enrollment mistakes,” states the letter.

“To mitigate such pitfalls and to improve CMS’ existing educational content,” the organizations made the following recommendations:

  • Provide all people approaching Medicare eligibility with enrollment notice and materials;
  • Place a greater emphasis on coordination of benefits considerations;
  • Retain content on seeking help in other languages;
  • Create separate, standardized content based on the reason for Medicare eligibility; and
  • Use consistent branding and a uniform aesthetic on the “Welcome to Medicare” packages.

Importantly, the letter urges CMS to work with members of Congress to pass the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act. This bipartisan legislation would fill long-standing notice gaps for people who must actively choose to sign up for Medicare Part B and otherwise modernize an outdated enrollment system created when the Medicare program started, more than 50 years ago.

For the full recommendations and list of organizations, see the letter.

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