For many people nearing Medicare eligibility, the question about whether or not to sign up for Medicare Part B is confusing and has significant financial and health coverage access consequences for getting it “wrong”. Those who are already receiving Social Security benefits at 65 years of age, don’t need to worry as they will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. But for the growing number of people delaying Social Security benefits, working longer, having coverage through COBRA, a retiree plan or the marketplace when they are approaching 65, they receive virtually no notification about their upcoming need to enroll in Medicare. These people must actively enroll in Medicare Part B when becoming eligible at age 65 to avoid gaps in coverage and a lifetime Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty.
Yet, as of 2018, an estimated 760,000 people nationwide, most of whom just made an honest mistake or were misinformed, are paying a Part B late enrollment penalty amounting to a close to 30% increase on their Part B monthly premium…and that is for life. The Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1280/H.R. 2477), introduced by Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would help prevent these expensive and misinformed mistakes.
The BENES Act would make sure all people approaching Medicare eligibility receive appropriate notification from the federal government about when and how to enroll in Medicare Part B and the consequences of delayed enrollment. It would also simplify the Medicare Part B enrollment period, bringing it into alignment with the Medicare Part C and Part D enrollment periods. And, it would eliminate the lengthy transition to Medicare by ending unnecessary gaps in coverage between the time of enrollment and the start of benefits.
Far too many people with Medicare are irreversibly harmed due to an outdated Part B enrollment system. The BENES Act presents an important opportunity for members of Congress to advance commonsense, bipartisan reforms that are in the best interest of the millions of Americans who will soon come to rely on Medicare.