This week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled Turning 65: Navigating Critical Decisions to Age Well to examine issues that older adults face as they near retirement age. In Medicare, two decisions are especially important for those who are newly eligible: when to enroll and what coverage option to choose. As the hearing highlighted, these issues have attainable solutions, namely the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act and the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIPs).
Currently, far too many people with Medicare are irreversibly harmed due to the cumbersome and confusing Part B enrollment system. The consequences of these missteps can be significant—including late enrollment penalties, higher out-of-pocket health care costs, gaps in coverage, and barriers to accessing needed services. In 2014, an estimated 750,000 people with Medicare were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP), with the average LEP amounting to a nearly 30% increase in their monthly premiums. The bicameral, bipartisan BENES Act (S. 1909, H.R. 2575), introduced in the Senate by Aging Committee Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN), aims to prevent these costly mistakes by modernizing, simplifying, and improving the Medicare Part B enrollment process.
Once people are enrolled into Medicare, they must continue to make choices. The hearing demonstrated consensus among the speakers that the SHIP program is essential to helping older adults and people with disabilities navigate their Medicare options. Recently, there have been threats to the program’s funding, but SHIPs offer help that no other resource provides: free, unbiased, personalized, one-on-one assistance in every state to help people with Medicare find and enroll in the coverage that is right for them.
This hearing showed the bipartisan support among Congressional leaders and the public for finding real solutions to issues people face as they near retirement age. At Medicare Rights, we are glad to see this important work.
Watch a recording of the hearing.
Read about the BENES Act.
Find your state’s SHIP.