November 03,2022

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Reports Deceptive Marketing Practices in Medicare Advantage that Harm Seniors

Following Multi-State Survey, Finance Chairman Finds Substantial Increase in Marketing Materials and Tactics Designed to Trick Seniors

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today revealed new information about an increase in deceptive marketing practices targeting seniors with Medicare Advantage plans.

“Older Americans and those living with a disability count on Medicare to deliver dependable and high-quality health care when they need it most,” Wyden said. “It is unacceptable for this magnitude of fraudsters and scam artists to be running amok in Medicare and I will be working closely with CMS to ensure this dramatic increase in marketing complaints is addressed. Medicare Advantage offers valuable plan options and extra benefits to many seniors but it is critical to stop any tactics or actors that harm seniors or undermine their confidence in the program.” 

Wyden’s report exposes numerous tactics used by insurance companies, brokers, and third party marketers to push seniors to sign up for their plans, including deceptive mail advertisements, misleading claims about increasing Social Security benefits, aggressive in-person marketing tactics, and enrolling beneficiaries, particularly those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, in a new plan without their consent.

The report also corroborated Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data reporting that the number of beneficiary complaints related to the marketing of Medicare Advantage plans doubled between 2020 and 2021. Nine out of ten states that provided quantitative data saw an increase in complaints to their insurance commissioners between 2020 and 2021. The report was based on a request for information issued to 15 states, and additional interviews with key stakeholders.

Wyden’s report also makes several recommendations to CMS that would reduce the prevalence of these tactics:

  1. Reinstate requirements loosened during the Trump Administration.
  2. Monitor disenrollment patterns and use CMS’s enforcement authority to hold bad actors accountable.
  3. Require agents and brokers to adhere to best practices.
  4. Implement robust rules around MA marketing materials and close regulatory loopholes that allow cold-calling.
  5. Support unbiased sources of information for beneficiaries, including State Health Insurance Assistance Programs and the Senior Medicare Patrol.

Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage for 2023 is currently active, ending on December 7, 2022. The report also includes three recommendations to warn potential Medicare enrollees of potential scams when looking for a Medicare plan:

  1. Use caution if calling a helpline advertised on television.
  2. If you think you have been enrolled in a new plan that doesn’t work for you, call 1-800-MEDICARE for help.
  3. Be careful what you click.

The full report can be found here. An appendix for the report with additional examples of deceptive marketing materials can be found here.