In Elder Law News

Eager businesswoman waits for senior man to sign contract.The number of people enrolling in Medicare Advantage programs offered through Medicare-approved private companies has increased over time. Based on this trend, more than half of all Medicare recipients may be enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs by 2025.

As alternatives to traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage programs can provide lower costs and additional benefits to some individuals. Yet, compared to traditional Medicare, the copays and deductibles can be unpredictable, wreaking havoc on some retirement plans. Aggressive, misleading advertising practices can induce people to leave good health coverage for less advantageous options, mistakenly thinking the new plans are better.

While Medicare Advantage registration has grown, so have questions about the ethical implications of advertisers’ practices and concerns that scammers are permeating Medicare’s open enrollment period. Television ads, for instance, encourage seniors to call Medicare Advantage marketers quickly for free consultations. Robocalls, websites, and mailings about Medicare Advantage can include misleading information.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) fields consumers’ complaints against marketers. The number of complaints against third-party Medicare Advantage marketers skyrocketed from 15,500 in 2020 to 39,600 in 2021, suggesting that deceptive marketing is a severe problem.

In May 2022, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) raised concerns that federal law does not allow sufficient state oversight of Medicare Advantage programs, making advertising challenging to regulate.

Fraud Investigation

Rising alarm about predatory practices prompted Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden to start a recent investigation. In August 2022, he addressed 15 state insurance commissioners, requesting information about the increasing number of complaints against marketers for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans and seeking specific examples of false advertising.

In response, Medicare Advantage lobbyists pushed back. They claimed that federal law carefully regulates these programs and many people approaching retirement simply lack knowledge about Medicare Advantage.

Protect Yourself

Although exploring all your options and learning about Medicare Advantage can be a good idea, Medicare Advantage plans can vary and are not the best option for everyone. Take time to make decisions about your retirement to better protect yourself from misleading information.

If you notice an advertisement for Medicare Advantage and want to explore it as an option, speak to an attorney before reaching out to the sales representative. An estate planning or elder law attorney can help you discern whether traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage is appropriate for your retirement plans. A legal advisor can also help you understand how enrolling in Medicare Advantage would impact your retirement plan overall.

Signs of Misleading Advertisements

Medicare Advantage advertisers could target you if you are retired or are approaching retirement age. According to the NAIC, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or mental incapacitation, as well as those not proficient in English, can be particularly vulnerable to predatory practices.

  • Be on the lookout for claims that seem too good to be true.
  • Although the presence of a celebrity in an ad can make it seem more credible, do not assume claims are valid or would apply to you simply because they come from a recognizable public figure.
  • Seek legal advice about which program the advertiser is selling. The marketer might not clearly explain the differences between programs that are available to you.
  • Be wary of those who call you repeatedly.
  • When an advertisement tells you to act quickly, be wary.

Marketing agents have incentives to make a sale and convince you to enroll in their program. An attorney can examine your unique situation and help you make an informed decision. 

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