May 7, 2019

Sens. Young, Casey, and Reps. Ruiz, Walorski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties

WASHINGTON – With a growing number of Americans aging into Medicare, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced a bipartisan bill to simplify complex Medicare enrollment rules. The Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act would eliminate needless gaps in health care coverage and help prevent lifetime, late-enrollment penalties. Today, almost 760,000 Americans are paying these penalties, increasing their Medicare Part B premiums by an average of almost 30 percent. U.S. Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-36) and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.-02) have introduced a bipartisan companion bill in the House.

“Seniors who miss the sign-up deadline for Medicare Part B face onerous penalties that persist for the rest of their lives. The BENES Act will make the sign-up process more efficient and friendly to our seniors so they have the financial backstop needed to access quality medical care,” said Senator Young.

“With more than 10,000 Americans turning age 65 every day and becoming eligible for Medicare, we need to simplify and improve the enrollment process. The BENES Act would inform people new to Medicare about their responsibilities, helping to prevent costly penalties and eliminate gaps in coverage,” said Senator Casey. “By working in a bipartisan, commonsense fashion we can keep more dollars in seniors’ pockets and ensure they receive the care they need when they need it.”

“As more and more Americans reach Medicare age, we need to simplify the Part B enrollment process and improve education and outreach to seniors,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “These bipartisan reforms will protect seniors from unnecessary late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage, and unexpected health care bills.”

“For too many seniors, enrolling in Medicare Part B is a confusing process that can lead to expensive penalties and higher health care costs,” said Congressman Raul Ruiz. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan BENES Act to ensure older Americans understand the Medicare Part B program, helping them avoid higher premiums or gaps in their health care coverage. This critical legislation will prevent older Americans from falling through the cracks and not getting the health care that they need. As a physician, I will continue to fight for our seniors’ access to quality, affordable health care they have earned and deserve.”

“Every day on our National Consumer Helpline we hear from older adults and people with disabilities who are confused about how and when to enroll, or who made a mistake and are facing lifetime late enrollment penalties, higher health care costs, gaps in coverage, and disruptions in care continuity as a result,” said Fred Riccardi, President, Medicare Rights Center. “The BENES Act will significantly alleviate these challenges and improve the health and financial security for people with Medicare.”

The BENES Act would direct the federal government to provide advance notice to individuals approaching Medicare eligibility about basic Medicare enrollment rules, filling a long-standing gap in education for older adults and people with disabilities. The BENES Act would also eliminate needless multi-month coverage gaps in Medicare enrollment periods and align Medicare Part B enrollment periods with those in private Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Christopher Coons (D-DE) also co-sponsor the bill. The BENES Act is supported by more than 85 organizations including AARP, AHIP, BlueCross BlueShield Association and Medicare Rights Center.