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Protecting Older Adults from Marketing Misrepresentation of Medicare Plans

by Pennsylvania Department of Aging

Mar 10, 2022

With private insurers increasingly promoting their Medicare coverage plans through marketing campaigns that feature celebrities or offer gifts, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), supporting CMS’ efforts to address the issue of marketing misrepresentation, and offering suggestions to protect consumers from advertising messages that may be confusing or misleading.

In the letter, Secretary Robert Torres outlined the consequences that older adults could face if they switch from a Medigap plan to a Medicare Advantage plan due to these marketing campaigns, including loss of coverage and access to their doctors, new co-pays, and the inability to return to the Medigap plan. The letter cited an example in which an older adult left their Medigap plan for a Medicare Advantage plan for the incentive of a free fruit basket that they did not qualify to receive.

Secretary Torres further urges CMS to act on the following proposed measures:

  • Require clearer disclaimers with standard language developed by CMS that indicate the products offered do not represent the full selection of choices available to consumers.
  • Make the beneficiary aware of the disclaimer, the availability of other suitable options, and the ramifications of switching plans.
  • Prohibit the use of the word “Medicare” in the phone number, company, or website name, and the use of Medicare-like graphics in marketing materials.
  • Require a statement that the advertised plans may not be the best choice for everyone and may not be available in every area.
  • Include the 1-800-MEDICARE toll-free helpline and numbers for State Health Insurance and Assistance Programs (SHIPs).

Learn about the programs and services offered by the Department of Aging by visiting the department’s website and Facebook page.

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