THURSDAY, Dec. 15, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Medicare Advantage ads that are confusing or misleading could be banned under a new rule that was proposed Wednesday by the Biden administration to protect seniors.

Nearly half of all seniors or people with disabilities who are enrolled in the Medicare program through the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have Medicare Advantage plans.

“CMS released a proposed rule today that takes important steps to hold Medicare Advantage plans accountable for providing high quality coverage and care to enrollees,” CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a news release. “The rule also strengthens Medicare prescription drug coverage and implements an important provision of the Inflation Reduction Act to help more people with Medicare who have modest incomes afford their prescriptions.”

Medicare Advantage plans are private plans that offer versions of the U.S. government’s Medicare program with additional benefits, but some have been accused of deceptive marketing in television commercials, online ads and mailers, the Associated Press reported.

The new rule would ban ads that have confusing words, imagery or logos, or that don’t specifically mention a health insurance plan by name, the AP reported.

CMS agents have shopped for plans secretly while investigating the situation, calling the phone numbers that appear in the advertisements, the AP reported.

During those investigations, they’ve learned some brokers have overpromised savings and benefits to seniors. Several states have reported an increase in deceptive marketing complaints in 2021, the AP reported.

Among the findings of an investigative report released last month by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, older adults in Ohio were sent mailers that looked like tax forms from the federal government. These promised bigger Social Security checks for enrolling in the plan, the AP reported.

TV commercials with celebrities have promised seniors would get “money back to your Social Security check,” but didn’t specify that plan savings varied by ZIP code or didn’t cover all providers, the AP reported.

“These proposals are an important step towards protecting seniors in Medicare from scammers and unscrupulous insurance companies and brokers,” committee chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement on Wednesday.

Addressing a separate issue, CMS also proposed regulations that would get seniors quicker access to mental health care appointments, the AP reported.

Under these new wait-time standards, enrollees would receive care within 10 days with mental health providers who are in-network for Medicare Advantage plans.

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SOURCE: Associated Press

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