AP NEWS

State regulators warn of deceptive Medicare marketing

October 31, 2018 GMT

State officials are warning Medicare beneficiaries not to be fooled by deceptive advertising and sales offers during the current shopping season for health plans.

One of the big concerns is that beneficiaries recognize what information is coming from Medicare or a legitimate insurance company or agent, vs. information that might be from a scam artist trying to steal your money, Commerce said in a news release Tuesday.

Next year, a type of coverage known as the Medicare Cost health plan is ending across 66 counties in the state, which means more than 300,000 Minnesotans are being pushed to find a new health plan for 2019.

When looking for Medicare on the internet, make sure you go to the official website at Medicare.gov, the state Commerce Department said in the release. Dont be fooled by private websites with similar addresses such as Medicare.com, Medicare.org and Medicare.net.

Open enrollment for Medicare health plans started Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. Its the shopping season for those losing their Cost plans, plus the general Medicare population.

Theres been a spike in legitimate Medicare marketing in recent weeks, as insurance companies try to woo seniors by their Medicare Advantage health plans and Medigap supplementary policies that work with original Medicare. Carriers also have launched more Part D prescription drug plans, which also work in conjunction with original Medicare.

Alongside the materials from insurance companies, Commerce says theres been evidence of misleading materials, as well.

Read the fine print and dont be deceived by appearances, the agency said. Some advertisements and sales materials may look like they are from Medicare. If it is misleading in appearance, it may also be misleading in what it is really offering.

Commerce says that consumers should not believe any agent who claims to work for Medicare, or any advertising that claims to offer plans sponsored or endorsed by Medicare, which is the massive federal government health insurance program for people age 65 and older plus certain groups of younger people.

Hang up on any phone calls, either live or recorded, trying to sell you a Medicare plan, Commerce says. Insurance companies and agents are not permitted to make unsolicited Medicare-related calls.

Minnesotans can call the states Senior LinkAge Line for free help in understanding Medicare choices at 1-800-333-2433.

People who think theyve been received a Medicare advertisement or sales solicitation thats deceptive, misleading or a scam can report it to the Minnesota Commerce Department by e-mail at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 1-800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

Christopher Snowbeck 612-673-4744 Twitter: @chrissnowbeck