Resources for Seniors
Medicare Should Warn Enrollees on Steep Late Sign-up Penalties
For many Americans entering retirement, it comes as an unwelcome surprise: Medicare premiums become much more expensive if you do not sign up on time. The program tacks on a 10 percent penalty on monthly Part B premiums for each full 12-month period of late enrollment, and you keep on paying the penalties for the rest of your life. The aim is to avoid “adverse selection,” which occurs when people sign up for coverage only when they think they will need it. That helps keep premiums lower for all Medicare enrollees. But a heads-up would be nice. And that is the intent of the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification Act (BENES Act), a bill introduced with bipartisan support last week in the U.S. Senate (companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier). It would require the government to send a notification letter in the year before your 65th birthday - the first date of Medicare eligibility. The letter would explain the enrollment rules, and - importantly - how Medicare interacts with other insurance coverage you might have. Roughly 750,000 Medicare beneficiaries paid late enrollment penalties in 2014, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). That is less than 2 percent of enrollees, but for those who do pay the penalties, the bite is painful. On average, total premiums for late enrollees were 29 percent higher, CRS reported.
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Opioid Epidemic Also Hitting Older Adults
As America grapples with an opioid epidemic, senior citizens are often overlooked. Yet, older adults are highly susceptible to chronic pain and the prescription painkiller addiction is hitting this population. “We really are looking at the opioid epidemic, we know how destructive it is, but we think of its younger victims,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said at an event on aging and addiction, hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Surescripts. “This is more of a quiet, more silent, but equally deadly part of the opioid epidemic,” she said. Roughly one in three beneficiaries in Medicare’s prescription drug program received a prescription for opioids in 2016. About half a million received high amounts of opioids. And nearly 90,000 are at “serious risk” of opioid misuse or overdose, according to a July report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “What the data really revealed — the final takeaway — is that Medicare may be paying for opioids that are not medically necessary and in fact Medicare may be paying for opioids that are doing harm to seniors and perhaps even others as the drugs are diverted into the street for resale,” said Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations at the HHS Office of Inspector General. At the event, Clark and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) touted their bill requiring e-prescriptions for controlled substances under Medicare. Of potential opposition to the measure, Clark said, “the burden is really going to come to doctors, to hospitals, to upgrade their technology to be able to do the e-prescribing.” She added the legislation includes built in ways to give them time to meet this criteria.
Source/more: The Hill