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(PA) Casey: We Need to Pass the BENES Act to Simplify Medicare Enrollment

Bill Could Have Prevented 26,000 Pennsylvanians from Paying Costly Late Enrollment Penalties

Fayette County Resident: People Need to be Educated About Medicare or They Will Fall Through the Cracks

Link to Video File: Sen. Casey’s Opening Remarks, the Witness’ Remarks and Their Q&A

Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing, “Turning 65: Navigating Critical Decisions to Age Well.” During the hearing, Sen. Casey pushed for passage of the Medicare Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act that would ensure adults approaching age 65 have essential information about Medicare enrollment.

Every day 10,000 Americans turn 65 years-old, and will be faced with critical decisions about their finances and health care, including claiming Social Security and signing up for Medicare.

“Medicare is one of America’s greatest success stories, and it’s our sacred responsibility to make sure that people can make the most of the Medicare benefits they earned,” said Senator Casey. “That’s why I introduced the bipartisan BENES Act to ensure that fewer people miss the deadline to enroll, which can lead to gaps in health coverage and costly penalties.”

The BENES Act (S. 1909) would help ensure that every American receives a notice when they are approaching 65 years-old that explains when to sign up for Medicare and what can happen if they delay enrollment. There are nearly 26,000 Pennsylvanians that must pay a lifetime penalty for late enrollment. The average penalty amounts to almost a 30 percent increase in a person’s monthly Medicare premium. Many people are paying these penalties because they don’t know the rules.

Sharon Hill, 63, from Vanderbilt, PA, testified before the committee at the invitation of Sen. Casey. Sharon is a volunteer Medicare counselor for Pennsylvania’s APPRISE program, a federally-funded program that offers counseling for people navigating Medicare. “People do not have all the information they need to make the best decisions for their health care or financial needs… Knowledge is important in helping people maximize their benefits and avoid the pitfalls of life-long penalties.”

The APPRISE program, also known federally as the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), offers free one-on-one Medicare counseling through more than 15,000 counselors nationwide. Pennsylvanians can contact an APPRISE counselor to assist with health care-related information by calling 1-800-783-7067 or visiting the website.

Watch the hearing on Turning 65: Navigating Critical Decision to Age Well.