Deceptive ads will be under the microscope going forward thanks to new CMS regulations.
As we approach the annual open enrollment period, Medicare Advantage (MA) insurers will need to be more careful than they've been in the past in how they market to seniors.
Insurers, brokers, and other third-parties are allowed to begin MA marketing for the coming coverage year on October 1 in the lead-up to open enrollment kicking off on October 15. For the 2024 plan year, payers will have to keep CMS' new MA marketing regulations in mind when they try to add to their membership.
CMS will prohibit any ads that do not mention a plan name, use words and imagery that could be confusing, or use the Medicare name or logo in a misleading manner.
"This final rule will strengthen Medicare Advantage and hold health insurance companies to higher standards for America's seniors and people with disabilities by cracking down on misleading marketing schemes by Medicare Advantage plans, Part D plans and their downstream entities," CMS said in a press release.
The rule will require a change from insurers from how they've targeted seniors in the past—even as recently as last year. According to analysis by KFF of data on English-language TV ads that aired across national and local markets on broadcast television or national cable during the open enrollment period for coverage in 2023, viewers were often hit with marketing that is now prohibited.
There were more than 9,500 ad airings per day and of those, over a quarter (27%) included a government-sponsored Medicare card or an image that resembled it. The Medicare card or a similar image appeared in 28% of insurer-sponsored airings, compared to 21% of airings sponsored by brokers and other third parties.
Insurers will have to be more cautious for the upcoming enrollment period and do their part to curb a problem that has negatively affected beneficiaries, leading to a rise in complaints and attention from CMS and lawmakers.
Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders.
Medicare Advantage marketing is permitted to begin for the new coverage year beginning October 1 and this year's open enrollment period will have an updated set of rules for ads.
Insurers can no longer use the Medicare name or logo in a misleading manner, which has been done in the past and as recently as last year.
KFF analysis found that during the open enrollment period for coverage in 2023, 28% of insurer-sponsored television ad airings included a government-sponsored Medicare card or an image that resembled it, which is now prohibited by CMS.