This week, the House Committee on Ways and Means advanced the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477) in a markup that considered a series of Medicare-related bills. The BENES Act is now included in a larger bipartisan package that was unanimously reported favorably out of Committee—the Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth, and Extenders Reauthorization (BETTER) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3417).
The BENES Act is urgently needed to modernize and simplify the Medicare Part B enrollment process. Currently, far too many people make honest mistakes when trying to understand and navigate this confusing system. The consequences of such missteps are significant—including late enrollment penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed services.
The BENES Act would help prevent these costly errors. As included in the BETTER Act of 2019, it would fill long-standing gaps in outreach and education, eliminate needless breaks in coverage, and inform future policymaking on enrollment period alignment.
In addition to these commonsense BENES Act solutions, the BETTER Act includes several other policies that are important to people with Medicare and their families, and priorities for the Medicare Rights Center—such as increasing funding for outreach and enrollment assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries, and making the Part D Limited Income Newly Eligible Transition (LI NET) Program permanent.
Together, these and other changes in the BETTER Act bill would significantly improve the health and economic security of people with Medicare today and in the future. Medicare Rights applauds the members of the Ways and Means Committee for advancing these improvements and thank the staff of the Health and Social Security Subcommittees for their tireless work in crafting these complex policy changes.
We are also grateful to Rep. Schneider (D-IL) and Rep. Walorski (R-IN) for championing the BENES Act on the Committee, and to House co-sponsors Representatives Ruiz (D-CA) and Bilirakis (R-FL) for their leadership of the bill on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
We urge lawmakers to prioritize the BETTER Act’s critical reforms—including the BENES Act—for immediate passage.