A Florida congressman is behind a push on Capitol Hill to end gaps in Medicare coverage and cut down on late-enrollment penalties.
Noting that almost 760,000 Americans are paying fines for late-enrollment in Medicare which increases Part B premiums, on average, by 28 percent, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., is backing the “Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act.” Other champions of the bill include U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., U.S. Rep. Brad Scheider, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind.
Ruiz introduced the bill last week and weighed in on the proposal on Monday.
“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 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.”
Bilirakis also offered his take on the legislation on Monday.
“I have met with numerous constituents who are paying this penalty due to a variety of circumstances, some of which are outside of their control or are a result of a basic misunderstanding of how the program operates. The current requirements are confusing, and I am proud to be a part of this bipartisan effort to simplify the program and make it more user-friendly for seniors,” said Bilirakis.
“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 Walorski. “These bipartisan reforms will protect seniors from unnecessary late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage, and unexpected health care bills.”
“Our Medicare system exists to ensure our seniors have access to quality, affordable health care, but for too many older Americans the enrollment process can be a source of stress, confusion, and even lifelong penalties,” said Schneider. “The BENES Act makes commonsense updates to improve education, fix the fragmented enrollment periods, and make sure fewer seniors fall through the cracks. I am proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to help more older Americans get the quality health care they deserve.”
The bill “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” and “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.
The proposal has the support of more than 85 organizations including AARP, AHIP, BlueCross BlueShield Association and Medicare Rights Center.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.