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Medicare “Education”

“Hi, Mr. /Mrs. ___________ my name is Fred Smith and I’m excited to talk to you today to educate you about Medicare!” Many Virginia residents have heard this refrain over the phone or in person at some point over the past few years. Insurance companies have instructed their salesmen to use such statements as part of a script to sell insurance products. As discussed below, Virginia residents would be well advised to be cautious anytime insurance salesmen offer to “educate” them about Medicare.  

Insurance companies often target potential customers based on information gleaned from public/private databases. The insurance companies pay the database for individuals’ contact information including names, addresses, and phone numbers on soon-to-be Medicare eligible individuals who are about to turn 65 years of age.[1]

As you may imagine, soon-to-be Medicare recipients are the perfect target for insurance companies. These individuals are older, more likely to need insurance, and can be solicited in the comfy confines of their home. You may wonder why the government allows insurance companies to buy seniors’ personal information. The insurance industry claims the information is used only to “educate” potential customers about Medicare.[2] The reality is unfortunately quite different.

Many, if not most, insurance salesmen have no intention of educating seniors on Medicare. Once they get in the door on Medicare education, the salesmen aggressively push seniors to buy unnecessary products. The primary means of doing this is through high pressure sales tactics that prey on seniors’ fears. Insurance salesmen use lines such as “put the resident in the nursing home.” The often speak of themselves as “wild animals stalking their prey” and other lines that sound like they came from Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. A textbook example of these egregious sales tactics is this story from Inside Edition.

In summary, Virginia residents should be wary whenever insurance salesmen claim to want to “educate” them on Medicare. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

[1] Lazarus, David. Why Health Insurance Companies Will Solicit You Even After You Die. Los Angeles Times (Oct. 18, 2016) available at https://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-medicare-mailings-20161018-snap-story.html.

[2] 42 C.F.R. 422.2268; 42 C.F.R.423.2268.

Bo Frith