- Seniors with low incomes are more likely to report fraudulent or deceptive marketing by private Medicare plans, including Medicare Advantage, according to a survey published on Tuesday from the Commonwealth Fund.
- While just 10% of all seniors reported receiving marketing calls that requested their Medicare or Social Security numbers before they were given plan details — a practice which violates federal rules — that figure more than doubled among seniors with incomes less than $25,000 per year.
- Overall, seniors were “inundated” with advertising about MA plans, Medigap supplemental coverage and prescription drug plans, and many didn’t know how to file complaints about inappropriate marketing, the survey found.
Regulators have raised red flags about Medicare marketing, finalizing a rule this spring that aims to cut back on deceptive or misleading advertising for MA plans after beneficiary complaints more than doubled between 2020 and 2021. Under the new rule, MA plans are required to include the name of a specific plan, and aren’t allowed to use the Medicare name, CMS logo or any government products in a misleading way.
During the open enrollment period for Medicare, seniors typically receive a deluge of marketing material from MA plans, brokers and agents as well as companies that provide extra MA benefits and Medigap and Part D plans.
Nearly all 2,000 older adults surveyed by the Commonwealth Fund late last year reported receiving at least one Medicare marketing phone call, mailing or email per week. Thirty percent said they received seven or more phone calls weekly, and more than three quarters reported they saw TV or online ads once a day or more.
Seventeen percent of all seniors surveyed said they saw ads that led them to believe something about a plan that wasn’t true, which rose to 28% among low-income seniors.
More than half of seniors surveyed said they received a call or email from “Medicare” promoting specific insurance plans, and three-quarters said they received an unsolicited call from a plan or a representative, which is in violation of federal rules.
Yet 22% of survey respondents said they didn’t know how to file complaints about Medicare marketing, and they didn’t think they could figure out how.
“Additional support for unbiased education and easier pathways to file complaints about fraudulent activities could enable more beneficiaries to share their concerns about Medicare plan marketing and improve regulation,” report authors wrote. “This support could be especially helpful for older adults with lower incomes, who, as shown in our survey, are more likely than those with higher incomes to have negative experiences with marketers.”