Joint letter to Congressional leaders calling for commitment to passing bipartisan BENES Act

NCHC Writer
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This letter was originally organized and sent by the Medicare Rights Center. Please find the PDF version with a complete list of cosigners here.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leader Pelosi:

The undersigned organizations share a commitment to advancing the health and economic security of older adults, people with disabilities, and their families. Together, we represent the 57+ million Americans who rely on Medicare. We need your commitment to pass the bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1909; HR 2575) by the year’s end. This bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation is urgently needed to improve Medicare Part B enrollment, and to modernize the now-outdated 1965 law to align with changes in the Social Security and Medicare Advantage laws. The legislation has widespread support from everyone from MA Plans to beneficiary advocacy groups, and needs your support now.

The basic rules underpinning the Part B enrollment system were developed more than 50 years ago, when Medicare was first established. The BENES Act offers long-overdue solutions to modernize and simplify Part B enrollment. Through bipartisan, low-cost reforms, the BENES Act shields people with Medicare from steep premium penalties and fills needless gaps in coverage.

Knowing whether and when to enroll in Part B requires that a person understand when to sign up during timelimited windows, how their other insurance will work with Medicare, and what penalties may result if enrollment is delayed. The consequences of missteps can be significant and include higher out-of-pocket costs, significant gaps in coverage, and lifetime penalties.

In 2014, 750,000 people with Medicare were paying a Part B Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP) with the average LEP amounting to nearly a 30% increase in a beneficiary’s monthly premium.1 In addition to this considerable penalty, many retirees and people with disabilities face large out-of-pocket health care costs, gaps in coverage, and barriers to care continuity because of honest enrollment mistakes.

The BENES Act significantly alleviates these challenges. It fills long-standing gaps in notice and education for those approaching Medicare eligibility and aligns and simplifies enrollment periods, bringing Part B rules in line with Medicare Advantage and Part D rules. Together, these changes will help prevent costly enrollment slipups among the 10,000 people becoming Medicare eligible each day. For these reasons, we strongly support the BENES Act, and we believe it should be a priority for Congress.

Far too many people with Medicare are irreversibly harmed due to a cumbersome and confusing Part B enrollment system. The BENES Act presents an important opportunity for members of Congress to advance commonsense, bipartisan, low-cost reforms that are in the best interest of the many millions of Americans who will soon come to rely on Medicare.