Bilirakis, Schrader, Thompson, and Buchanan Introduce Bill to Protect Seniors’ Access to Health Care
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier this week, Congressman Gus Bilirakis introduced the comprehensive Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act, which would simply the Medicare enrollment process and waive financial penalties associated with late Medicare enrollment. Congressman Bilirakis (R-FL-06) has also joined Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), and Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) to introduce H.R. 2564 – Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2019. This important legislation will protect seniors from coverage gaps in Medicare by closing the Medicare Part B-COBRA loophole. Under current law, anyone 65 and older who does not enroll in Medicare Part B within eight months of retiring or being laid off from his or her job is penalized with a higher lifetime premium and a delayed start to Medicare coverage. This includes those who opt into COBRA coverage upon retirement which essentially extends the coverage they received under their employer for up to an additional 18 months.
"We want to ensure the transition from private health care to Medicare is easy,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “The current law does not meet that objective. Additionally, the law does not properly reflect the need for flexibility due to the various challenges that those exiting the workforce face in today’s economy. Our bill empowers seniors to make the health care decisions that best fit their individual needs without fear of a lifetime penalty, and I look forward to its quick passage."
This bill was first introduced two years after the recession hit, causing mass layoffs and forcing thousands to retire early. Many of those 65 and older, who were forced to retire early, opted to enroll in COBRA to ensure that they remained in their current provider’s network. Once their COBRA coverage expired, they were forced to wait until the next Medicare enrollment period, delaying coverage for as long as a year and triggering higher premiums for life. The Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2019 will establish a special enrollment period for seniors who miss their enrollment periods due to COBRA continuation coverage.