This week, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released data on massive recent job losses among those age 65 and older, illustrating the ongoing need for economic and insurance assistance for this population. According to KFF, between March and April of 2020 the unemployment rate of those 65 and older quadrupled. The new unemployment figure of 15.6% for this age group is second only to the population between ages 16 and 24 whose rate is 27.4%.
As we have discussed before, the economic situation for many older adults has become increasingly dire. In addition to the economic harm older adults face from job loss, they may also be without health coverage. Those who are over 65 who have lost job-based coverage may have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Medicare Part B, but they may face financial penalties or other barriers to coverage. Calls to our national helpline reveal that those who are applying for coverage face delays as they try to enroll because of overwhelming demand.
Others who are eligible for Medicare may have missed out on their opportunity to enroll, leaving them with no coverage at all. As we discussed last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is attempting to make enrollment more flexible for some people, but these options are very narrow and only help a small number of people.
At Medicare Rights, we know that we must ensure that all who are eligible for Medicare can access and afford its coverage, and we are deeply concerned about the health and well-being of older adults, people with disabilities, and their families amid the coronavirus emergency. To that end, we support the SEP included in the HEROES Act that would help Medicare-eligible individuals quickly connect with their coverage. We also continue to support the bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Actthat would provide people with more information as they approach Medicare eligibility to ensure that they make the choices that give them the greatest access to coverage and care.