The Medicare Rights Center applauds the recent introduction of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) 2.0 Act (S. 1687) 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 enrollment rules, filling a longstanding gap in outreach and education.
While most older adults and people with disabilities are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B, a growing number are not. These individuals must make an active enrollment choice, taking into consideration specific timelines, complex Medicare rules, and their existing coverage.
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 2021, an estimated 779,400 people were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP). The average amount increased their monthly premium by nearly a third (27%).
The BENES 2.0 Act would help prevent these costly errors by empowering informed enrollment and coverage choices. In so doing, it would advance the goals of the original BENES Act. Fully implemented this year, the BENES Act modernized transitions to Medicare by eliminating lengthy waits for coverage and updating Special Enrollment Period (SEP) flexibilities. The BENES 2.0 Act would build upon those successes to further improve enrollee health, well-being, and economic security.
Fred Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said, “The BENES 2.0 Act would simplify Medicare enrollment, streamline access to care, and support beneficiary decision-making. On our national helpline, we frequently hear from people who are confused about Part B enrollment, and from beneficiaries who made a mistake and are struggling with lifetime penalties or gaps in 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 (I-AZ), Scott (R-SC), Brown (D-OH), Sullivan (R-AK), Smith (D-MN), and Braun (R-IN) for co-sponsoring this critical bill. We look forward to working together and with the House towards passage this year.”
Sign up to receive Medicare news, policy developments, and other useful updates from the Medicare Rights.