The health insurance industry is contending that a newspaper article published last week detailing examples of hard-sell tactics used to sell Medicare Advantage programs involves only a few “bad apples.”
“It is important to note the vast majority of health insurance producers work very hard to find quality and appropriate health coverage at the best possible price for millions of employers, individuals and families every day,” said Kelly Loussedes, a vice president at the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va.
She was commenting on a May 7 article in The New York Times citing cases where agents for Medicare Advantage plans have been charged with using hard-sell tactics to pressure elderly Americans into signing up for policies that the Times alleged “may leave them worse off than they would be with traditional Medicare coverage.”
The Times article charged that the “abusive sales tactics are particularly egregious among private fee-for-service plans,” which it said are the fastest-growing type of private Medicare coverage.
The article said state officials are investigating a range of sales abuses, including a case in Georgia where 2 insurance agents were arrested and accused of signing up unwilling consumers. In the story, one beneficiary said her signature was forged by a door-to-door salesman.
In North Carolina, the article said, the insurance commissioner is investigating complaints that agents switched residents of an assisted-living facility from traditional Medicare into private plans without their permission. At least 5 other states are investigating complaints about sales tactics, the article said.
In response, Loussedes and Mohit Ghose, a vice president at America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, D.C., said members of the 2 groups are working with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop and offer training programs for brokers and agents.
The 4-part education program deals with Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage, and the rules and responsibilities of each program.