U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer pushed new legislation that would require the federal government to send notification to seniors of their Medicare eligibility six months before being eligible to enroll. Right now, individuals who forget or do not apply for Medicare within their initial enrollment period are forced to pay exorbitant lifetime fees and penalties. Additionally, eligible beneficiaries who fail to enroll during their initial enrollment period may have to wait up to a full year before they can enroll in Medicare and are hit with a 10 percent penalty on their Medicare Part B Premium for every year they were not enrolled. This 10 percent or greater penalty is added to the premium for the duration of their Medicare coverage. Schumer said this is unacceptable and a clear and simple notification to those approaching eligibility could help address the problem.

“It may sound simple, but this notice is so much more than a reminder – it’s a lifeline,” said Senator Schumer. “Millions of seniors in New York rely on their Medicare benefits to lead comfortable, independent and healthy lives. But unfortunately, Medicare’s current rules are so convoluted that many seniors are at risk of facing critical gaps in coverage when they could desperately need these benefits, or face exorbitant, lifetime penalties that could negatively impact their quality of life. I’m calling on my colleagues to pass this urgently needed, commonsense legislation because a clear and simple notification for those nearing eligibility would go a long way toward addressing this problem and preventing our seniors from being hit with unending, costly fees.”

Schumer explained that when seniors start taking Social Security benefits, they are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) if they signed up for Medicare Part B at the time they signed up for Social Security benefits. However, an increasing number of Americans are working longer and are therefore deferring their Social Security benefits past the age of 65. As a result, those who would be new to Medicare are required to proactively enroll in the program in order to receive their health benefits. But oftentimes, Schumer explained, these soon-to-be eligible seniors fail to properly enroll because they are not informed of Medicare’s complex enrollment process and rules.

According to the Medicare Rights Center, the federal government currently does not provide any warning to people nearing the age of 65 that must actively enroll in Medicare, but a clear and simple notification for those approaching Medicare eligibility could help address these problems. Schumer is therefore urging his colleagues in Congress to support soon-to-be legislation that would help prevent seniors from losing out on coverage and having to pay exorbitant lifetime penalties.

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