AG Announces Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

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August 24, 2007 LITTLE ROCK - Over the past two months, almost every day reports have surfaced across the nation about the use of deceptive sales tactics by some Medicare Advantage insurance companies. As a result, last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, announced that it established a special election disenrollment period for people who enrolled in a plan based on misleading or incorrect information. Beneficiaries may call Medicare at 800-633-4227 to see if they qualify. Deceptive Medicare Advantage marketing practices target senior citizens who are trying to select the Medicare prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan that will suit their needs. Arkansas's seniors have not escaped these deceptive and misleading sales tactics. In fact, one Arkansan reports that an insurance agent dressed up and posed as a home health care worker to convince her mother to select a different Medicare Advantage plan. I am deeply concerned about the dishonest practices some companies and their agents have employed to sell these plans, and I have instructed my Consumer Protection staff to utilize the full resources of this office to assist consumers in any way we can, said Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. CMS indicates that complaints of deceptive Medicare Advantage marketing practices generally fall into the following three categories:1. Salespeople stating that the plans are accepted by all health providers when, in fact, they are not.2. Salespeople stating that the MA plan will supplement their existing Medicare coverage, leading enrollees to think they will remain in traditional Medicare.3. Salespeople stating that consumers can switch back to original Medicare or another plan at any time when, in fact, they cannot do so. CMS does not allow agents and brokers to make cold calls to a persons home to sell any kind of Medicare Advantage product; therefore, such a phone call should alert all Arkansans that something is amiss. In addition, seniors do not need a Medigap supplemental policy if they join a Medicare private fee-for-service plan or any other type of Medicare Advantage plan, such as a Medicare HMO or Medicare PPO. If you are told otherwise by an insurance agent, this, too, should be a red flag. Before agreeing to purchase a Medicare Plan, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel encourages all of Arkansas's senior citizens to contact their local Area Agency on Aging or the Arkansas Insurance Departments Seniors Health Insurance Information Program to ensure that the Medicare plan they are considering will meet their needs. If you or someone you know has signed up for a Medicare plan based upon dishonest hard-sell tactics, we encourage you to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General or with the Arkansas Insurance Department.