House Advances the BENES Act Along with Other Medicare Improvements

House Advances the BENES Act Along with Other Medicare Improvements

In late June, the House Ways & Means Committee advanced the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act along with several other bills for Medicare improvements. The BENES Act is now part of a much larger bipartisan package of bills referred to as the Beneficiary Education Tools, Telehealth, and Extenders Reauthorization (BETTER) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3417​).

 

This is great news, as the BENES Act provides: 1) much needed simplification of the Medicare enrollment process, and 2) improvement of the notification process of Medicare eligibility and the consequences of not signing up when eligible.

 

Far too many people (an estimated 760,000 in 2018) who made an honest mistake or were misinformed about the consequences of delaying their Medicare Part B enrollment when 65 end up with gaps in coverage and a lifetime of paying a Medicare Part B late enrollment penalty. This is too easy to do as currently there is virtually no notification for the growing number of people who are working longer, delaying their Social Security benefit and/or who already have coverage through COBRA, a retiree plan or the marketplace when they are approaching 65.

 

In addition to the BENES Act, The BETTER Act of 2019 also includes other Medicare improvements, such as: additional funding for SHIP counselors to do low-income outreach and enrollment, a statutory exclusion of complex wheelchairs from the competitive bidding process, and a provision that makes the Part D Limited Income Newly Eligible Transition (LI NET) program for low-income beneficiaries permanent. LI-NET provides immediate prescription drug coverage and cost-sharing assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries who are newly enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or who otherwise qualify for Extra Help.

 

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Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.