I wrote a few years ago about a favorite show from my childhood – Gunsmoke. You can check out that post here:
My husband and I found a TV channel that has Gunsmoke reruns every day at noon. Several days a week we watch the show while eating lunch. By now most of the shows we have already seen and know the ending before it even starts.
Obviously Gunsmoke is a show that appeals to old folks. We laugh because most of the commercials are for Medicare supplements, Depends, or in-home care. It is amazing to me how many different commercials they have for Medicare supplements and how untruthful they are.
One that plays over and over shows Joe Namath (remember this former professional football player also did a commercial years ago wearing pantyhose) talking about you getting all the Medicare benefits you deserve.
While Joe talks, very large letters appear on the screen listing these “new” benefits. Rides to medical appointments, private home aides, nurse and doctor visits by telephone. Even dental and vision coverage. All of these extra benefits Joe says, you can get with zero premiums. Joe then encourages you to call the number on the screen and assures you there is no charge for the call. He says “One simple call gives you free, professional assistance to help you get more benefits and save money.” It sounds like a public service announcement from Medicare and the screen is even designed to look like it is from Medicare.
Sound too good to be true?
There is a lot Joe does not tell you. While the ad says that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid has announced these new benefits and makes it seem as if they are part of Medicare, original Medicare parts A and B do not cover benefits like this. They are considered to be “benefits for daily maintenance”. To get these extra benefits requires you to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. A plan offered by insurance companies.
Joe also says that “All of these benefits may be available to you at no additional cost.” While the screen is showing all these extra benefits and Joe is waving his hands around and talking rapidly, at the bottom of the screen in very small print it says that “plan premiums, co-payments and co-insurance may apply.”
These ads encourage you to call the number on the screen. They make it seem like they are doing you a great favor as they say there will be no charge for the call. Of course not. When you call you will be speaking – not to a Medicare government official – but to an insurance agent. This agent may not even live in your state. What happens if they sign you up and you then have a question. Will you be able to reach them when you need them?
I am certainly no expert on this subject and the Medicare Advantage plans may be the best option for some. However, I feel there should be a little more honesty in these commercials so that senior citizens are not fooled into thinking that Medicare is offering more benefits at no cost to them. They need to know they are dealing with insurance companies whose whole purpose is too make a profit and not with a government program offering them something for nothing. Instead of calling some number on the screen I would recommend anyone thinking about Medicare Advantage plans to contact a local insurance agent.
The American Medical Association passed a resolution in 2019 that says:
“Whereas, Medicare Advantage plans are heavily marketed to seniors by insurance companies, with less than ideal transparency in advertising; … and
“Whereas, Presentations by insurance company officials to seniors can overemphasize the value of different options and can create confusion; therefore be it
“RESOLVED, That our American Medical Association encourage AARP, insurance companies and other vested parties to develop simplified tools and guidelines for comparing and contrasting Medicare Advantage plans.”
The AMA identified the need for tools to help individuals go beyond the TV commercials and get the information they need to make a smart decision.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid has created a “Medicare Plan Finder” on their website Medicare.gov to help any senior trying to decide what works best for them.
Joe is not the only one doing these commercials. I have to wonder just how much money he makes with this less than truthful ad? It must be profitable because more and more celebrities are making these ads.
Watching one hour episode of Gunsmoke we counted six Medicare commercials. Much as we enjoy Gunsmoke we are beginning to think we need to find something else to watch during lunch time.