Happy 48th Birthday Medicare! Getting Enrolled and Staying Enrolled

By Guest Blogger

This blog was written by Stacy Sanders, Federal Policy Director at the Medicare Rights Center.

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the signing of Medicare into law. Although our colleagues at Enroll America are focused on getting those under age 65 connected to their new coverage options, Medicare’s birthday provides an opportunity to think about the transition individuals turning 65 will face as they move to Medicare. This is where our work at the Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights) comes in.

Medicare Rights is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities. At the centerpiece of our programs is our national helpline for people with Medicare and their families—a hotline that people can call for assistance navigating the Medicare program.

As the new coverage options take effect, adults just nearing their 65th birthday—the age of eligibility for Medicare—will no longer be forced to delay needed health care because they were denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition or because they simply could not afford the high cost of insuring themselves. Over the years, this is a story commonly shared by callers to our national helpline, both from adults in their 50’s and 60’s and from younger adults with disabilities.

Given new ACA coverage options, people becoming eligible for Medicare will need to navigate a new landscape in the changeover to Medicare, and now is the time for the federal and state governments to plan for these transitions. A recent Medicare Rights report, A Bridge to Health, outlines several policy strategies to ease the transition to Medicare, including redesigning state enrollment systems to include people eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, aligning financial eligibility rules for all public insurance and marketplace health plans, using outreach and notices to educate beneficiaries, and more.

Just as people applying for coverage through the new marketplaces will have many different assistance options, people becoming eligible for Medicare can get assistance from a variety of sources, including the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213), the Medicare Rights Center (1-800-333-4114), and State Health Insurance Programs (SHIPs; each state has their own). We look forward to helping ensure that as many Americans as possible not only enroll in coverage, but stay covered as they age into Medicare.

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