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CMS To Marketers: No Free Meals!

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has published the final Medicare plan marketing rule and the interim final rule that were announced Monday in the Federal Register.

The rule and interim final rule affect agents and brokers who sell Medicare Advantage coverage and Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.

Comments on the interim final rule are due Nov. 17.

CMS officials note in a discussion of the final rule that they received many comments about a provision that would keep Medicare product marketers from serving free meals to prospects.

“Commenters in favor of the prohibition expressed that the inclusion of meals as a prohibited item would help protect beneficiaries by preventing mass enrollments without personal attention to the appropriateness of the plan,” officials write.

Free-meal opponents said offering meals can help beneficiaries feel more comfortable and less pressured than during an in-home visit.

“Some comments requested clarification on the term meals and the limitation,” officials write. “For example, is it acceptable if the beneficiary purchases their own meal or if a volunteer association arranges the meals, or if the meals are provided at an event where no enrollment forms are distributed or collected.”

One commenter argued that limiting food to snacks would be difficult to enforce.

“Based on oversight activities, we believe it is important to protect the integrity of the sales and marketing process by moving forward with this prohibition,” CMS officials write.

The CMS will keep the ban on free meals and give more details about it in marketing guidelines it is developing, officials write.


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