Let’s Simplify Medicare Enrollment ~ Support the BENES Act 2.0

BENES Act - US Capitol Building

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 2020, an estimated 776,200 people nationwide, most of whom just made an honest mistake or were misinformed, are paying a Part B late enrollment penalty amounting to an approximately 30% increase on their Part B monthly premium…and that is for life. The Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act 2.0 (S. 3675), introduced by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Todd Young (R-IN), would help prevent these expensive and misinformed mistakes.

The BENES Act 2.0 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 builds on the passage of the original BENES Act that was passed by Congress in 2020. That one, S. 1280/H.R. 2477, eliminated the up to seven month-long wait for coverage that people have when they sign up for Medicare during the General Enrollment Period (GEP) or in the later months of their Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Beginning in 2023, Medicare coverage will begin the month after enrollment. It also updated Medicare’s administrative enrollment flexibilities which, starting in 2023 will allow Medicare to grant “Special Enrollment Periods” for “exceptional circumstances”, similar to the flexibilities Medicare Advantage and Part D plans already enjoy. In addition, the original BENES Act called for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to look for ways to align Medicare enrollment periods. They must present their findings by January 1, 2023.

Join us in supporting the BENES Act 2.0 (S. 3675) by encouraging your senators to support this bill. The BENES Act 2.0 continues the good improvements already under way and would simplify Medicare enrollment, better empower people approaching Medicare eligibility to make their optimal coverage choices and prevent expensive, misinformed mistakes.

Karen Joy Fletcher

Our blogger Karen Joy Fletcher is CHA’s Communications Director. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she is the online “public face” of the organization, provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare and other health care issues. She is responsible for digital content creation, management of CHA’s editorial calendar, and managing all aspects of CHA’s social media presence. She loves being a “communicator” and enjoys networking and collaborating with the passionate people and agencies in the health advocacy field. See her current articles.