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Ari Parker. (Photo: Chapter)

Life Health > Health Insurance > Medicare Planning

Medicare Marketing Rules Look Wimpy: Ari Parker

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Discouraging Joe Namath and William Shatner from starring in TV ads that give what might be unrealistic descriptions of Medicare Advantage plans is a good idea, but it doesn’t do much to help consumers understand and compare Medicare coverage options, Ari Parker says.

Parker is a co-founder of and the head advisor trainer at Chapter, a Medicare plan broker that helps clients compare all Medicare options and recommends coverage options without regard to its own commissions or other payments.

Parker is also the author of “It’s Not That Complicated,” a book about how Medicare works.

Parker started out by earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2009 — during the Great Recession — then going to work as a high school speech and debate coach.

He went back to school, got a law degree from Stanford, and spent two years at Radius, a customer data firm, before helping to launch Chapter in 2019.

He answered questions via email about how the Medicare plan market is, and is not changing.

The answers to the questions in this interview have been edited.

THINKADVISOR: How do you see the new Medicare plan marketing rules affecting, or not affecting, things?

ARI PARKER: It’s great that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is trying to curb misleading advertising in the Medicare space. Unfortunately, I don’t think these rules will have a big impact. When do disclaimers and fine print ever make a difference?

This year, I suspect celebrity Medicare sales pitches in advertisements will probably be a little more toned down following public scrutiny.

Still, consumers will continue to have very few resources available to them to make the informed decisions needed to access the affordable, high-quality health care that Medicare can provide.

How do you see the market changing this year?

Many Medicare Advantage plans are investing heavily in plans with $0 premiums, adding plans with “Part B giveback” options that rebate a portion of the Part B medical premiums, and expanding the scope of additional benefits.

Meals, quarterly over-the-counter drug allowances, and transportation to and from the doctor’s office are increasingly common benefits.

At the same time, insurance companies continue to lower copayments for visits with in-network physicians.

What’s happening with the premiums?

Location, location, location: Every area of the country tends to have different trends. In general, the carriers with the greatest market share in each area are maintaining their premiums relatively stable.

With that being said, premiums do on average increase every year, and many carriers hike their rates as beneficiaries get older.

That’s why it’s important for customers to seek the advice of an advisor who understands the long-term premium trends of each insurance company: Since it can be hard for most Americans to switch after their initial enrollment, customers should look beyond the first-year premiums when shopping for coverage.

How do you see consumer demand for all plans, or certain types of plans, evolving?

Demand for Medicare Advantage plans continues to grow. This is at least in part because of how aggressively the industry markets Advantage plans; the coupling of low premiums and ancillary benefits can often distract consumers from limitations, such as poor network coverage.

While Medicare Advantage plans can be advantageous for certain beneficiaries, it’s important to consider the totality of a customer’s circumstances before choosing Advantage over supplement options.

How do you think we can improve the situation?

Education in these areas starts with HR being willing to open a conversation with employees regarding their benefits.

Consider referring employees to a reputable insurer that can offer them individual coverage.

That leads directly to the second thing companies should consider: working to develop relationships with reputable insurance carriers who can then provide individual life insurance to employees.

There are several possible benefits to this.

Partnering up could drastically simplify the underwriting process for individual policies and supplemental insurance.

Because employers already have data about their employees, companies can share that data with insurers to aid in a speedy underwriting process and make getting a policy approved a much simpler and faster process.

Many insurance providers are already experimenting with automated underwriting based completely on data with no need for physician statements.

So the insurance market is ripe for this kind of direct employer-insurer partnership. In the end, businesses can receive policies tailored to their industries, and employees can get coverage tailored to them and to their family members’ needs.

Today, many individuals are missing out on important protection that could prevent financial disaster for their families in the future. Employers can help to change that.

Pictured: Ari Parker. (Photo: Chapter)


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