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Schrader, Curbelo, Thompson, Bilirakis Introduce Bill to Close Medicare Part B-COBRA Loophole

Today, Congressmen Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-06) introduced the bipartisan Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2018 (HR 5104) to protect seniors from coverage gaps in Medicare.

Under current law, anyone 65 and older who does not enroll in Medicare Part B within eight months of retiring or being laid off from his or her job is penalized with a higher lifetime premium and a delayed start to Medicare coverage. This includes those who opt into COBRA coverage upon retirement which essentially extends the coverage they received under their employer for up to an additional 18 months.

“Confusion over rules should not prevent anyone from receiving coverage, and it certainly should not penalize them for the rest of their life,” said Congressman Schrader. “No one should be slapped with higher premiums for life simply because they opted into a program that kept them in their own network longer. And it is unacceptable for anyone to have a lapse in coverage because of a confusing enrollment process.”

“We should not penalize seniors through higher premiums because they chose to remain in their current network,” said Rep. Curbelo. “Every day my casework staff hears about the horrors of navigating the federal bureaucracy, and we need to find ways to help those stuck in confusing processes. I’m proud support the Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2018 to help protect individuals who elect COBRA coverage and as a result, unintentionally missed the deadline to enroll in Medicare.”

“Ensuring access to Medicare is a critical part of ensuring we are providing for our nation’s seniors,” said Congressman Thompson. “That’s why I am proud to help introduce the Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2018, which will help streamline Medicare enrollment for seniors with COBRA coverage and ensure they aren’t hit with expensive penalties.”

"We want to ensure the transition from private health care to Medicare is easy,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “The current law does not meet that objective.  Additionally, the law does not properly reflect the need for flexibility due to the various challenges that those exiting the workforce face in today’s economy.  Our bill empowers seniors to make the health care decisions that best fit their individual needs without fear of a lifetime penalty, and I look forward to its quick passage." 

Congressman Schrader first introduced a version of this bill in 2010, two years after the recession hit causing mass layoffs and forcing thousands to retire early. Many of those 65 and older who were forced to retire early opted to enroll in COBRA to remain in their current network. Once their COBRA coverage expired however, they were forced to wait until the next Medicare enrollment period, delaying coverage for over a year in some cases, and were hit with higher premiums for life.

The Medicare Enrollment Protection Act of 2018 will establish a special enrollment period for seniors who miss their enrollment periods due to COBRA continuation coverage.