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  • Writer's pictureKevin Firth, Certified Medicare Insurance Planner™, DBA

Unethical Enrollment Practices by Medicare Advantage Agents, Agencies, and TPMOs Put Medicare Beneficiaries at Risk


In the realm of healthcare, trust and integrity are paramount. This is especially true when it comes to programs like Medicare, designed to provide essential medical coverage to millions of vulnerable individuals. However, a troubling trend has emerged within the Medicare Advantage landscape, where some agents, agencies, and especially TPMO call centers and lead generation companies resort to unethical practices to enroll beneficiaries, often leading to detrimental outcomes for unsuspecting individuals.


Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, offers an alternative way to receive Medicare benefits through private insurance companies. While these plans can provide additional services beyond original Medicare, such as dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage, the methods employed by some agents, agencies, and TPMOs to enroll beneficiaries have come under scrutiny.


The most concerning tactics are cold-calling beneficiaries or using misleading advertising to get beneficiaries to call. Organizations utilizing these tactics often use persuasive language and misleading information to convince beneficiaries to switch plans, regardless of whether it is truly in their best interest. For instance, I have an agent friend whose daughter, an employee call center agent of a very well-known TPMO agency, known primarily for quoting and selling life insurance plans, has gotten into the Medicare Advantage industry. According to this employee agent, they were instructed to persuade the beneficiary to change plans and if they could not do it in a certain period of time, they passed the beneficiary off to a “Closer” who specializes in getting beneficiaries to change plans! Can you believe that? Using “Closers” to persuade Medicare beneficiaries, elderly in many cases, to change plans whether it is in their best interest or not! Placing Medicare beneficiaries in the wrong plans can be detrimental to their health care and finances.


The issue is compounded by the fact that beneficiaries may not fully understand the complexities of Medicare Advantage plans. The nuances of deductibles, copayments, provider networks, and prescription drug formularies can be overwhelming, especially for elderly adults. This lack of understanding leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous agents seeking to capitalize on their confusion.


Furthermore, these agents often employ high-pressure sales tactics, creating a sense of urgency and fear of missing out on supposed benefits if beneficiaries do not switch plans immediately.

Cold-calling and misleading advertising to Medicare beneficiaries not only violates ethical principles but also goes against the rules set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to CMS guidelines, agents are prohibited from initiating contact through unsolicited calls for the purpose of enrolling beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans. Such practices not only erode trust in the healthcare system but also put vulnerable individuals at risk of making uninformed decisions about their healthcare coverage.

 

The consequences of such unethical practices are severe. Beneficiaries may find themselves enrolled in plans that do not cover their specific medical needs or medications, resulting in financial strain and compromised health outcomes. Additionally, frequent plan changes can disrupt continuity of care and jeopardize established patient-provider relationships.


To combat this unethical behavior, stricter enforcement of existing regulations is necessary. CMS must take proactive measures to identify and penalize agents and call centers that engage in cold-calling and misleading tactics. Moreover, increased consumer education and awareness campaigns are essential to empower beneficiaries to make informed decisions about their healthcare coverage.


Insurance companies and Medicare Advantage plans have a responsibility to uphold ethical standards and ensure that agents adhere to all regulations and guidelines. Implementing robust compliance and oversight mechanisms can help prevent the exploitation of beneficiaries for financial gain.


There is a reason that Certified Medicare Insurance Planner™, DBA, will only list an agent in their resident state. We believe that although an ethical agent can sell compliantly long distance over the phone, there are many who do not, and it has created quite an issue with CMS in our industry. Also, there can be nuances and changes in an MA plan, especially in a local MA market, where an agent five states away may not be made aware of until much later. We also want a beneficiary to be able to meet face-to-face with their agent if they want to. There is an accountability factor that is present when an agent knows the Medicare beneficiary knows where they live and work.


In conclusion, the prevalence of cold-calling and unethical enrollment practices in the Medicare Advantage industry is a concerning issue that demands immediate attention. By prioritizing ethical conduct, enforcing regulations, and empowering beneficiaries with knowledge, we can safeguard the integrity of Medicare Advantage and ensure that beneficiaries receive the quality healthcare coverage they deserve.


If you are an experienced and ethical MA/Med Supp/PDP producer who would rather walk away from a sale than make one unethically, we would like you to consider becoming a designation holder with Certified Medicare Insurance Planner™, DBA. We are a community of professionals dedicated to excellence in all that we do.


Our designation holders possess our core “K.E.E.” values of Knowledge, Experience, and Ethics necessary to be at the top of their field.


If this describes you, please go to www.certifiedmedicareinsuranceplanner.org for more information.


Kevin Firth, President

Certified Medicare Insurance Planner™, DBA

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