Protections Needed for Medicare Beneficiaries Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic


April 1, 2020

For more information, contact: Tatiana Fassieux, Education & Training Specialist, 530-521-7502,


Protections Needed for Medicare Beneficiaries Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic


(Sacramento, California) Due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many current and future eligible Medicare beneficiaries are adversely impacted by restrictions in communications and have lost their ability to enroll in Medicare during the recent General Election Period that ended on March 31, 2020. Many Medicare beneficiaries have been unable to reach their local Social Security office due to closures, long telephone wait times, or difficulties navigating the online application process available on the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) website.


California Health Advocates has requested that an extension of the General Enrollment Period (GEP) or a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) be granted immediately. This action is similar to a previous “equitable relief” measure given to those who kept their Marketplace plan, instead of enrolling in Medicare Part B.


“This extension will assist those who are unable to enroll due to dealing with health issues related to the COVID-19 virus, or because of telephone or Internet constraints,” said Doug Shaw, California Health Advocates Board Chair. “Without this extension or relief, thousands of Medicare eligible beneficiaries will have to wait at least 12 months to get their Medicare benefits, a delay which could potentially cost their health, or worse – their lives.” Once established, the extension should remain in place until SSA is able to reopen their local offices.


California Health Advocates (CHA) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing quality Medicare, Medicare Supplement, long-term care insurance information, and supports the work of local State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPS, known in California as Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Programs (HICAP), providing benefits counseling and community education on Medicare and long-term care with training, education, technical assistance.


CHA and other health care advocacy organizations around the nation have made multiple efforts to communicate with both the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about the need for an extension of the GEP, and there has been no response to date.


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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.