By Mike Lillis
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced legislation this week designed to help seniors avoid penalties and coverage gaps when they sign up for Medicare.
Under current law, those eligible for Medicare who enroll in COBRA instead of Medicare when they leave work are hit with a penalty when they do shift to Medicare Part B. Additionally, they're forced to wait for Medicare's annual enrollment period, which runs from January through March, with coverage beginning in July.
That system, Schrader said, can create coverage gaps for seniors — a group that can have trouble finding temporary insurance because of age. Schrader's proposal would create a special Medicare enrollment period for seniors previously getting coverage under COBRA. The bill, he said, will allow for a seamless transition between the programs.
David Sloane, AARP's senior vice president, agreed. "Too many Americans," Sloane said, "trying to do the right thing by holding on to their COBRA health insurance are being caught off guard by huge penalties when they join Medicare."