Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN) recently reintroduced the bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notice and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1909)—an act strongly supported by Medicare Rights. The BENES Act simplifies Part B enrollment periods and requires the federal government to provide advance notification to people approaching Medicare eligibility about enrollment rules and how Medicare works with other coverage.
People receiving Social Security benefits are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B. Increasingly, however, many Americans are working longer, delaying retirement, and deferring Social Security benefits. Unlike those who are auto-enrolled, these individuals must make an active Medicare enrollment choice. Deciding whether and when to enroll in Medicare involves many complex rules, and inappropriately delaying Part B can lead to a lifetime of higher Part B premiums, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed care. The BENES Act seeks to address these challenges by improving complicated and outdated Medicare enrollment processes.
Currently, when older Americans reach enrollment age, they face a maze of rules, deadlines, fees, and penalties. The consequence of a mistake or missed deadline could mean higher premiums and other costs down the road. The BENES Act is critical to solving many of the pitfalls associated with Part B enrollment. The 10,000 people who turn 65 daily will find enrolling in Medicare easier because of the BENES Act, and we urge lawmakers to work together to pass the legislation. Medicare enrollment rules are complicated and mastered by very few; thus, the BENES Act is a big leap in the right direction.
Key aspects of the bill include:
- Increasing Notification and Education. The BENES Act will create a pathway for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Social Security Administration (SSA), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to work together and notify individuals approaching eligibility about enrollment rules and how other insurance works with Medicare.
- Eliminating Coverage Gaps during Enrollment Periods. The BENES Act guarantees that people with Medicare do not experience a break in critical coverage. Specifically, the bill will fix coverage gaps in the 5th, 6th and 7th month of a person’s Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) and in the General Enrollment Period (GEP), modernizing an enrollment system that has not been revisited since Medicare was established more than fifty years ago.