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Reps. Bilirakis, Walorski, Schneider, and Ruiz Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Seniors

May 6, 2019
Press Release
-Preventing Medicare Late Enrollment Penalties-

Washington, D.C. – With a growing number of Americans aging into Medicare, Representatives Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced bipartisan legislation 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 28 percent.


“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 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.”


“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.”


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 bi-partisan effort to simplify the program and make it more user-friendly for seniors,” said Congressman Bilirakis.


“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 Congressman 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.”


"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 bill 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 BENES Act is supported by more than 85 organizations including AARP, AHIP, BlueCross BlueShield Association and Medicare Rights Center.