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Bennet, Colleagues Call for More Consumer Protections for Seniors with Medicare Advantage Plans

It’s Medicare plan review season across the nation, and the season of the year when seniors are a prime target for deceptive health care program marketing.

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Bob Casey (D-Pa.) along with Democratic members of the Finance Committee in urging the Biden Administration to implement additional consumer protections in Medicare Advantage (MA), following an increase in reports of deceptive marketing practices aimed at seniors in the program.

“We write today to urge the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to step up its oversight of marketing practices in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program and implement commonsense regulations to ensure beneficiaries can make informed choices about their Medicare coverage,” the senators wrote. “We share the same goal to enable the offering of MA plan choices that are valuable to seniors and people living with disabilities. Yet, our first responsibility is to protect beneficiaries and the integrity of the MA program from fraudsters and scam artists who look to take advantage of any opportunity to prioritize profits over beneficiary health and well-being.”

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet answers questions in 2018, during a town hall meeting at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center. Bennet fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including his voting record, health care, gun violence, public lands, agriculture and others (photo by Joe Stone).

In the letter, the senators call for the following steps to bolster consumer protection for seniors:

  • Reinstate protections loosened during the previous administration.
  • Monitor MA dis-enrollment patterns and use enforcement authority to hold bad actors accountable.
  • Provide clear guidelines and training to ensure agents and brokers understand and adhere to best practices.
  • Implement robust rules around MA marketing materials and close regulatory loopholes that allow cold-calling.
  • Support unbiased sources of information for beneficiaries, including State Health Insurance Assistance Programs and the Senior Medicare Patrol.

The letter, signed by 14 U.S. Senators. reports a dramatic increase in complaints of deceptive marketing practices, with complaints doubling between 2020 and 2021.

A report released earlier this month further confirmed this increase. It described 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 in a new plan without their consent.

With one in every four Chaffee County residents a senior citizen, this report has local impact.