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Medicare Enrollment Too Complicated

Last update on: Feb 02 2017

Many people elect to take Social Security retirement benefits before age 65. For them, the transition to Medicare is seamless. They are automatically signed up for Medicare Part B. But that’s not the case for everyone else, according to this report from the Medicare Rights Center. Problems signing up for Medicare are more than an inconvenience. They can result in incurring medical expenses that aren’t covered by any insurance and having to pay higher Medicare premiums for life. The report details the problems and recommends ways Congress can help.

As evidenced by questions received on Medicare Rights’ national helpline, many struggle to understand Medicare enrollment periods, coordination of benefits rules and the penalties associated with delayed enrollment. In 2013, Medicare Rights fielded more than 15,000 questions on its national helpline, and the second most common call concerned enrollment (22 percent). Nearly one-quarter of these calls were from individuals experiencing challenges enrolling in Part B, whether because they were navigating a specific hurdle (38 percent), did not understand enrollment periods (28 percent) or were unsure whether they were Medicare-eligible (13 percent). While most newly eligible beneficiaries qualify for “premium-free” Part A because they have sufficient work history, almost all beneficiaries pay a monthly Part B premium. This premium expense leads some to turn down Part B when they first become eligible—a choice that can have dire consequences.



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