Insurers’ marketing promises draw support, skepticism

April 3, 2008

Medicare Advantage plans are supporting efforts to halt inappropriate marketing tactics, partly to head off more stringent federal and state oversight designed to stop abusive practices. Last month, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) adopted a proposal urging enactment of new rules to prohibit certain marketing practices that violate Medicare policy.

Medicare Advantage plans are supporting efforts to halt inappropriate marketing tactics, partly to head off more stringent federal and state oversight designed to stop abusive practices. Last month, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) adopted a proposal urging enactment of new rules to prohibit certain marketing practices that violate Medicare policy.

The proposal would ban cold calling, door-to-door sales and cross selling of MA plans with other products. Insurers also backed a curb on inducements such as free meals or prizes to persuade seniors to sign up for private plans.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he hoped to include these recommendations in broader Medicare legislation slated for action by summer. Leading Republicans on the House Ways & Means Committee urged Medicare officials to bolster regulation of MA marketing activities while Congress weighs the need for additional legislation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, backs a bill that would give states a larger role in enforcing action against illegal Medicare sales tactics and expressed skepticism that the latest industry proposal would go far enough to protect seniors. “We heard pledges and promises from this group before,” said Kohl, adding that it’s time to give states “more room to step up regulation and enforcement of the insurance industry.