The bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477) is urgently needed to modernize and streamline the Medicare Part B enrollment process. Passage this year presents an important opportunity for members of Congress to advance commonsense, low-cost reforms that are in the best interest of millions of current and future Medicare beneficiaries.
Currently, far too many people make honest mistakes when trying to understand and navigate the complex Part B enrollment 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.
In 2018, an estimated 760,000 people with Medicare were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP), with the average LEP amounting to nearly a 28% increase in their monthly premium. In addition to this considerable financial burden, older adults and people with disabilities often face disruptions in care continuity, unexpected health expenses, and lack of coverage because of mismanaged Medicare transitions.
The BENES Act would help prevent costly enrollment errors. As recommended by MedPAC in its June 2019 report to Congress, the bill would fill long-standing gaps in outreach and education by directing the federal government to notify individuals approaching Medicare eligibility about basic enrollment rules. It would also update enrollment timelines to eliminate needless breaks in coverage and inform future policymaking on enrollment period alignment. Together, these changes would improve the health and financial well-being of current and future Medicare beneficiaries.
With 10,000 people reaching Medicare eligibility age every day, the BENES Act’s commonsense solutions are needed now more than ever.
Help support this bill by writing to your members of Congress. Urge them to prioritize the BENES Act for immediate passage.
For more information about the BENES Act, read the Medicare Rights one-pager.