Low-Income Seniors Report Deceptive Medicare Marketing: Study

Seniors are becoming increasingly overburdened by marketing efforts from private Medicare plans, and low-income beneficiaries are twice as likely to file complaints regarding fraudulent phone calls compared to high-income counterparts, according to a study from The Commonwealth Fund.

The study found that 22% of low-income adults report receiving fraudulent calls, while just 10% of higher-income individuals report the same. About 1 in 5 respondents did not know how to correctly file complaints about questionable marketing tactics.

“It is especially concerning to see that lower-income seniors are more likely to report receiving illegal or fraudulent marketing calls,” said Gretchen Jacobson, lead study author and vice president of Medicare at The Commonwealth Fund, in a statement. “More needs to be done to understand why and how this is happening, to protect beneficiaries from bad actors and to make it easier for them to file complaints.”

Seniors have an abundance of healthcare choices, including traditional Medicare plans, private Medicare Advantage plans, private prescription drug plans and Medigap plans. People aged 65 and older see at least one television or online ad each day about Medicare plans, the survey said.

These plans have shown they are willing to put the hard sell on potential beneficiaries, some of which violate federal rules.

Among the survey respondents, 10% said they were asked to provide their Medicare or Social Security number before being given plan details. Most respondents also said they receive unsolicited calls and emails from Medicare plans, a practice that is supposed to be prohibited until a call is specifically requested.

Misleading advertisements can impact whether a senior believes they are able to keep their doctor, as 28% of low-income adults said they picked a plan under the impression they wouldn’t have to switch doctors, compared to 17% of the rest of respondents.

The Commonwealth Fund suggests the Biden administration continue enacting regulations combating deceptive marketing as well as getting assistance from organizations such as the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs

Ninety-six percent of people said they feel like there are too many plan options and that they are more likely to stick with their current plan than to seek out a new plan. More than 1 in 3 people said they would like to know more about benefits outside of their coverage options, and 1 in 4 would like one-on-one help. Still, more than half of seniors were not sure how difficult it is to switch from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare or Medigap plans.


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