Wyden Launches Inquiry Into Deceptive Medicare Marketing

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Oregon’s senior U.S. senator on Thursday launched an inquiry with officials from multiple states regarding potentially deceptive marketing practices for Medicare Advantage plans that cover seniors.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Oregon’s insurance commissioner and officials in 14 other states requesting details about complaints each state has received. Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, cited recent reports while addressing each Medicare Advantage, a health care coverage plan for seniors 65 and older and Part D, which provides prescription coverage.

“I actually have heard alarming reports that MA and Part D health plans and their contractors are engaging in aggressive sales practices that benefit from vulnerable seniors and folks with disabilities,” Wyden wrote within the letter. “I write looking for details about potentially deceptive marketing practices being conducted by insurance organizations offering Medicare advantages under the Medicare Advantage (MA) program and the Part D prescription drug program.”

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that complaints greater than doubled in 2021 for seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage Plans. Greater than 800,000 Oregonians are on some sort of Medicare plan, whether traditional or an Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage plans can be found through private firms as a substitute for traditional Medicare plans. 

Wyden said misleading sales pitches should not a latest problem, citing a 2009 Government Accountability Office report about “inappropriate” marketing of Medicare Advantage plans. That report said federal regulators took motion against not less than 73 organizations during a three-year period.

In 2010, the federal inspector general of the Health and Human Services Office found after an examination of selling plans that regulations hadn’t stemmed the issues, Wyden noted in his letter. That report concluded that “the number and topics of sales agent marketing complaints remained unchanged after implementation of sales agent marketing regulations.”

Wyden asked for complaints from 2019 to 2022 about marketing, including from third-party organizations that publicize for insurers. It also asks for examples of false and misleading promoting, including mailers, robocalls, television commercials and web sites.

He also asked if the false marketing appeared geared toward certain geographic areas or communities, equivalent to lower-income people or minority groups.

Wyden also asked about whether the complaints show different firms making the identical sort of misleading sales pitch, equivalent to offering free meals, scooters or premiums.

The letter was addressed to Oregon Insurance Commissioner Andrew 

Stolfi and the Oregon Department of Human Services, which oversees the Senior Health Advantages Assistance program.

Spokespeople for the agencies didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Besides Oregon, the letter also went to: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Recent York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

You possibly can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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