We have all seen the seemingly endless ads on TV by former football players, actors and fake talk show hosts that promote Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement plans. They all promote the long list of additional benefits that are available at (supposedly) no extra cost.
They also include an 800 number you can call to get more information and talk to an “agent” who can help guide you. Of course, they hide that fact that the “agent” is a licensed insurance agent in the small print that you can barely read.
Now there’s a new study containing an analysis of three large, online broker insurance plan selection tools that found, on average, each included less than half of the available Medicare Advantage products and fewer than two-thirds of the applicable Part D plans.
It turns out that only 43% of available Medicare Advantage products, and 65% of Part D plans, were showcased on broker plan selection tools.
And when researchers searched online for health coverage options, they found that web results primarily showcased information directly from health plans — not from neutral government, or third-party, sources.
The report, released by the Commonwealth Fund last week, also said that in addition to the need for more transparency, continued support for existing public and not-for-profit outlets that focus on educating consumers about how Medicare works, and helping them navigate the marketplace could be helpful in smoothing seniors' transition into Medicare.
The current agent model focuses primarily on helping a patient choose a plan, rather than decide what type of Medicare is right for them. This presents a real problem for those who don't have access to tools for understanding the differences and trade-offs between plan types.
TSCL advises that when searching for a Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare supplement plan, you try to find a local or state government agency that can help you understand what the plans provide and which plan would be best for you.