Smucker Introduces Bill Eliminating Permanent Late-Enrollment Penalty for Medicare

March 11, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) introduced a bill to prioritize the health care needs of America’s senior citizens by eliminating the lifetime late-enrollment penalty for certain groups of Medicare recipients.

The Seniors’ Health Care Choice Act (H.R. 1657), would eliminate the permanent late penalty for seniors enrolled in COBRA coverage or small business health insurance plans who did not register for Medicare before the enrollment deadline.

“Medicare enrollment can be a confusing process and unfortunately for many of our seniors, this confusion can also be costly,” Smucker said. “Americans deserve the opportunity to choose the best health care plan for their needs without the fear of a permanent penalty hanging over their heads.”

Due to confusing regulations, many seniors do not realize they’re required to enroll in Medicare when they turn 65, regardless of whether they have health insurance or not. Seniors working for small businesses (companies with fewer than 20 employees) are particularly impacted by this provision since they do not meet Medicare’s “first payer” role where the health care plan would pay for health care first. 

This categorization leaves seniors who did not enroll in Medicare at 65 with a lifetime late-enrollment penalty. Seniors are then forced to wait until the General Enrollment Period from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31 to enroll in Medicare, which could leave some without health care and ultimately saddle them with thousands of dollars in fees on top of their Medicare costs. The Seniors’ Health Care Choice Act would end this penalty, providing seniors with COBRA coverage or employer-sponsored coverage with a special enrollment period to enroll in the Medicare plan which is best for them.

“Penalizing people for the rest of their lives because of a confusing Medicare system is unfair – what we should be focused on is making sure our seniors have adequate time to decide which plan is best for them,” Smucker said. “I’m hopeful my colleagues will agree and I urge them to pass this measure.”