NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2019

MedPAC Calls for Improvements in Medicare Part B Enrollment Process,
Recommends Better Notification Requirements for People Nearing Medicare Eligibility
Medicare Rights Urges Lawmakers to Pass BENES Act to Prevent Costly Enrollment Mistakes 

Washington, DC— In its June 2019 report to Congress, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recommends improvements to the complex Medicare Part B enrollment process, including strengthening notification requirements which is, in part, what the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act proposes to do (S. 1280/H.R. 2477).

Currently, only individuals who applied for or are receiving Social Security benefits at age 65 are notified about their Medicare Part B eligibility. Everyone else must make an active Medicare enrollment choice, taking into consideration specific timelines and existing coverage. If this transition is mismanaged—as it often is—individuals new to Medicare may face lifetime late enrollment penalties, higher health care costs, gaps in coverage, and disruptions in care continuity.

“The bipartisan BENES Act is a commonsense solution that is long overdue,” said Fred Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national consumer service organization. “The BENES Act would fill the long-standing gap in outreach and education by directing the federal government to notify individuals who are approaching Medicare eligibility about their enrollment options and responsibilities.”

As MedPAC notes “[t]he lack of a notification process ensuring that individuals are aware of their eligibility for and their need to enroll in Medicare as they turn 65 should be addressed. Improvement in the timeliness of notification to eligible individuals about Medicare enrollment and potential late-enrollment penalties is essential. The Secretary could work with the SSA to ensure that prospective beneficiaries receive adequate and timely notification of their pending Part B eligibility and the consequences of delaying enrollment.”

As people work later in life and defer their Social Security benefits, and as the eligibility ages for Medicare and full Social Security continue to widen, an ever-growing number of people aging into Medicare will be exposed to the pitfalls and harms of the current Part B enrollment system.

MedPAC estimates about 800,000 beneficiaries were paying a late-enrollment penalty for Part B in 2016.

“Every day on our National Consumer Helpline we hear from people who inadvertently made a Part B enrollment mistake because, regrettably, they didn’t know or understand the rules or they were misinformed about them,” said Riccardi. “Immediate policy changes—namely the BENES Act—are needed to improve the health and financial security for millions of current and future Medicare beneficiaries.”

MedPAC full report: http://www.medpac.gov/docs/default-source/reports/jun19_medpac_reporttocongress_sec.pdf?sfvrsn=0
BENES Act fact sheet: https://www.medicarerights.org/pdf/2019-benes-act-factsheet-long.pdf
BENES Act bill text: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s1280/BILLS-116s1280is.pdf

Press Contact: Mitchell Clark – mclark@medicarerights.org

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

Available only through the Medicare Rights Center, Medicare Interactive (MI) is a free and independent online reference tool that provides easy-to-understand answers to questions posed by people with Medicare, their families and caregivers, and the professionals serving them. Find your Medicare answers at www.medicareinteractive.org.

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