While most people newly eligible for Medicare are automatically enrolled in Part B—because they are collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 65—a growing number are not, as they are working later in life and deferring their Social Security benefits. Unlike those who are auto-enrolled in Part B, these individuals must make an active Medicare enrollment choice, taking into consideration specific timelines and existing coverage.
Currently, far too many people make honest mistakes when trying to understand and navigate this confusing enrollment system. The consequences of Part B enrollment mistakes are significant—including late enrollment penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed services. In 2018, an estimated 760,000 people with Medicare were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP), with the average LEP amounting to nearly a 28% increase in their monthly premium.
The Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477), championed by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would help prevent these costly errors. It would ensure that people approaching Medicare eligibility receive clear and timely information about Medicare Part B enrollment rules. It would also simplify Part B enrollment periods, bringing them in line with Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans to reduce confusion, and improve transitions to Medicare by eliminating needless gaps in coverage.
People with Medicare call the Medicare Rights Center’s National Consumer Helpline every day because they are confused about whether they need to enroll in Part B, or they made a mistake and are now struggling with lifetime penalties or gaps in their health coverage. The BENES Act would make the Medicare Part B enrollment system much easier to navigate and better equip people approaching Medicare eligibility with the information they need to make optimal coverage choices. These long overdue reforms will improve the health and financial security for millions of current and future Medicare beneficiaries.”
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