While most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B because they are collecting Social Security benefits when they become Medicare-eligible at age 65, a growing number are not. Many are working later in life and deferring retirement; in 2016, only 60% of 65-year-olds were taking Social Security, compared to 92% in 2002.
This growing cohort must make active Medicare enrollment choices, taking into consideration specific timelines, complex Medicare rules, and existing coverage. Missteps are common and carry severe consequences, including lifetime financial penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, and gaps in coverage.
On Medicare Rights National Consumer Helpline, we frequently hear from people who inadvertently failed to enroll in Medicare on time and are experiencing the harmful fallout. These errors are often due to confusion or unawareness about the enrollment process and Medicare requirements. The rules are so complicated that even Human Resources experts can struggle to follow them, and many employers’ benefits departments lack the Medicare expertise to effectively guide their employees and retirees. Clear and simple advice from Medicare’s federal agencies—the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—to those approaching eligibility would help, but today no such notice is required.
The bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) 2.0 Act (S. 1687) championed by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN) would address these challenges.
Any changes to the Medicare program must aim for healthier people, better care, and smarter spending—not paying more for less. As policymakers debate the future of health care, we will provide our insights here.
Thinking ahead to Medicare's future, it’s important to modernize benefits and pursue changes that improve how people with Medicare navigate their coverage on a daily basis. Here are our evolving 30 policy goals for Medicare’s future.
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