Popular Medicare TV Commercial Claims, Debunked
Pre-loaded debit cards, Part B premium givebacks, and free dental services are just some of the popular benefits mentioned on TV commercials from private Medicare Advantage insurance companies.
Celebrities often grace the screen with big promises that sound too good to be true. We’re shedding light on the fine print and recent legislation that’s a direct result of these often-misleading advertisements.
Disclaimer: We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.
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Television Commercials Causing Lots of Complaints
For years, Medicare Advantage (MA) companies have aired commercials promising big benefits, $0 premiums, and claims that sound way too good to be true.
These marketing practices have led to a huge surge in complaints, which then led to audits from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Their findings? Information being provided to beneficiaries is often misleading, confusing, and sometimes downright inaccurate.
As a result, starting in 2023, insurers will not be able to air any television ads for MA plans before getting approval from federal regulators.
Let’s take a look at a few popular claims you may see in advertisements and help bring some clarity and understanding.
Part B Premium Givebacks
Have you ever heard a commercial advertisement that claims you can get a reduction on your Medicare Part B premium?
Whether you choose a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan, you are still required to pay your Medicare Part B premium, which is $164.90 in 2023.
Some Medicare Advantage plans have a feature called the “Medicare Giveback Benefit.” This benefit is a Part B premium reduction that means your Medicare Advantage plan might pay some or all of your Part B premium.
The catch? This benefit isn’t available everywhere, and if it is available where you are, it still may not be the best plan for you. These commercials may air all over the country, but you may see it in an area where that plan or benefit isn’t even accessible.
Here in Macon County, we do have a couple of plans that offer a giveback ranging from $25-$125. However, some of these plans don’t come with drug benefits, and it’s critical to look at the rest of the features when making a decision.
Just because a plan has a Part B premium giveback doesn’t mean it’s the lowest cost plan for you. Our licensed agents can help you run a plan comparison to compare your options.
Pre-Loaded Debit Cards or Flex Cards
Pre-loaded debit cards, or flex cards, can help you pay for certain health expenses. Over-the-counter drugs or groceries are common things you can pay for using a Medicare Advantage flex card.
The catch with flex card claims is typically, commercials lure you in with language like “loaded with up to $2,800.” However, the average flex card amount is closer to $500. Some cards only come loaded with $200. It all depends on the plan and insurance company.
A flex card is still a fantastic benefit if it’s included with a plan that’s truly right for you, but the amounts loaded onto the card aren’t as high as you may think.
You also can’t just use this card like any other debit card. You can only use it on approved items or services outlined by your plan. In some cases, you’re even restricted on where you can get these items or services. As an example, you may use your flex card for hearing aids, but only if you get them from a specific hearing aid manufacturer.
As always, the devil is in the details! If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
No-Cost Dental and Vision Benefits
Another very common benefit talked about in advertisements and TV commercials is free or no-cost dental and vision benefits.
Most Medicare Advantage plans come with these extra perks nowadays, but these plans have limits.
As an example, preventative services like a dental cleaning or vision exam are most likely to cost you nothing. However, it’s very rare to get free glasses or contacts, and dental treatments will have limits. If you have a cavity, it’s unlikely your MA plan will pick up the entire tab.
There are also networks to contend with. If you’ve been seeing the same dentist or vision provider for years, are you willing to switch to someone else in-network? These are all things to think about before committing to an MA plan for the following year.
Again, each plan is different. You may be lured in with the promise of free dental care, but make sure you read the Outline of Coverage and list of in-network providers before you enroll for the next year. There may be limits that make the plan less appealing.
Pest Control, Home Upgrades, and More Obscure Benefits
Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have been coming out with more benefits than ever before to ensure they are attracting new plan members and staying competitive.
Some of the more unusual benefits you may see advertisements for include things like pest control, home upgrades, and even meal delivery services.
These types of benefits are very rarely offered on a large scale. It’s more likely you’ll see them in a regional plan, which will have a strict provider network. They’re also more available in metro areas with a dense population, like Chicago or St. Louis.
Additionally, you may not get access to benefits like these unless you have a chronic condition. Some benefits are not “unlocked” within a plan until you qualify in this way.
As always, ask your agent about these types of benefits. We can run a plan comparison to see which plan fits your needs and budget best. Then, we can see if there are any additional perks that you’ll enjoy as a cherry on top.
Medicare Advantage (MA) commercials can often be misleading, especially when it comes to some of the perks and extra benefits. A good rule of thumb is to realize that if it sounds way too good to be true, it likely is.
Our licensed sales agents can take a look at a plan you’ve seen ads for and let you know if there are any network restrictions or fine print attached to the benefit in question.
We look forward to serving you with all of your Medicare and retirement planning needs!
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