The Medicare Rights Center applauds the recent introduction of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) 2.0 Act (S. 3675) in the U.S. Senate.
Led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN), this important bill would require the federal government to provide advance notice to people approaching Medicare eligibility about basic Medicare enrollment rules, filling a longstanding gap in outreach and education.
While most older adults and people with disabilities are still automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B, a growing number are not. These individuals must make an active Medicare enrollment choice, taking into consideration specific timelines, complex Medicare rules, and their existing coverage.
Today, far too many people make mistakes when trying to navigate this confusing system. The consequences of such missteps are significant and may include lifetime financial penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, and gaps in coverage. In 2020, for example, an estimated 776,200 people were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP). The average amount increased their monthly premium by nearly a third (27 percent).
The BENES 2.0 Act 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.
This policy change would advance the goals of the original BENES Act. As passed by Congress in December 2020, that bill modernized transitions to Medicare by eliminating needless breaks in coverage, updating administrative enrollment flexibilities, and informing future policymaking on enrollment period alignment. The BENES 2.0 Act seeks to build upon those successes to further improve the health, well-being, and economic security of current and future beneficiaries.
Fred Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said, “The BENES 2.0 Act would simplify Medicare enrollment and better empower people approaching Medicare eligibility to make optimal coverage choices. We frequently hear from older adults and people with disabilities who are confused about whether they need to enroll in Part B, or who made a mistake and are struggling with lifetime penalties or gaps in their health coverage as a result. The BENES 2.0 Act recognizes and rises to these challenges.
“Thank you to Senators Casey and Young for championing the BENES 2.0 Act’s commonsense reforms, and to Senators Stabenow (D-MI), Collins (R-ME), Sinema (D-AZ), Scott (R-SC), Brown (D-OH), and Smith (D-MN) for co-sponsoring this critical bill. We look forward to working together and with the House towards passage this year.”
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