Turning 65, an onset of pure fear for many

This Spring my Dad is turning 65 and signing up for Medicare, so brochures and “lead cards” for Medicare Advantage and Medigap policies began flooding his mailbox in February. This stuff can be a real burden, but some of it’s worthwhile – some even important – so you can’t just throw it all away. Instead he let it pile up for a while. The picture above depicts 2 weeks worth of mailers.

As a health insurance broker and attorney, I’m amused by how many of these mailers and brochures contain outrageously misleading and deceptive claims that some insurers use to sell policies to seniors. Much of the information is legal boilerplate and some irrelevant. Much is simply confusing or incomplete.

My basic advice: Look out for these common deceptive tactics…

The Trojan Horse

  • Lead cards ask for personal information so they can contact you directly. Sellers use these prospect cards to get a foot in your door. The reason is that the federal government has recently clamped down on the sellers of Medicare Advantage plans, requiring consumers to consent in writing before an agent can visit their homes or call on the phone. (Sellers of Medigap policies, on the other hand, can still show up unannounced at a senior’s doorstep.) These lead cards, some of which look like more conventional letters, typically offer savings or coupons to convince consumers to return them. Unless you have a particular reason to work with the company, just toss it.

Scare Tactics

  • Another genre of cards often received uses scary language to frighten consumers. One, titled “Medicare Open Enrollment Inquiry Card” warns: “You only have ONE open enrollment period” — to make response pronto. Needless to say, this isn’t true. These cards may also ask for date of birth and phone number — and sometimes spouse’s information — and whether you want information about prescription discounts. Word of advice: Toss anything that scares you into action.

Faux Official Documents

  • An 11-page booklet from one major insurance company – Your Guide to Understanding Medicare, which has a big red banner across the front with “Medicare Advisor.” This booklet is exactly the same size as the government’s Medicare & You handbook sent to beneficiaries each year. The typeface is the same as well.
  • At first glance this booklet looks like the official Medicare handbook. However, at the very bottom on the back of the brochure, in fine print, reads, “This is an advertisement.”

It can be difficult sorting out the brochures and solicitations in order to determine what insurance you really need. With so many variables it can be overwhelming to tackle Medicare on your own. An expert in the field can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety in having the correct coverage. They’re able to dig deeper and explain the ins and outs of Medicare. Make sure that your expert is an independent agency and that the agency is licensed with multiple carriers. Agents must go through rigorous annual training to offer Medicare Advantage, Part D and Supplement products. A comfortable relationship with an independent agency can make this process easy and have you feeling confident that you are making the correct decisions.