WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 29, 2020)—The Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives debated a bill earlier this month to assist new Medicare beneficiaries in signing up for Medicare Part B.

During the hearing “Legislation to Improve Americans’ Health Care Coverage and Outcomes,” witnesses and members of Congress considered H.R. 2477, the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act of 2019. This legislation is designed to assist newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries understand Medicare Part B, and get signed up for it. Specifically, the legislation would improve the outreach and education to beneficiaries, work to reduce gaps in coverage and ease the enrollment process.

Many newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries are not automatically enrolled in Part B. If an individual misses the initial enrollment deadline they could be subject to a permanent late enrollment penalty of as much as a ten percent monthly premium increase for each twelve month period they did not enroll in Part B. In 2018, 760,000 Medicare enrollees paid the late enrollment penalty.

Frederic Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center provided testimony on the BENES Act. He cited confusing rules around the enrollment process and the decoupling of Social Security and Medicare as culprits necessitating enrollment outreach and assistance provided by the BENES Act.

Further legislative action is still necessary for the bill to become law. The full Energy and Commerce Committee will need to take additional steps through a committee mark-up, followed by consideration by the full House of Representatives. A similar process will need to take place in the Senate, with the Senate Finance Committee holding jurisdiction over the legislation. An identical companion bill has been introduced in the Senate as S. 1280.

The National Association for Home Care and Hospice supports the BENES Act as it will assist Medicare eligible beneficiaries in obtaining coverage and ensure they are able to access the full extent of Medicare benefits available to them, including home health and hospice care. NAHC will continue to monitor the legislation, advocate for its approval, and relay relevant updates to members.