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Medicare Myths and Misperceptions

David Kerber, CFP®, ABFP®, MPAS®

Sr. Wealth Advisor, Sr. Director


Learn about common Medicare mistakes, the role misleading ads play, and how you can avoid common pitfalls.

Senior couple holding hands and walking

If you’re over the age of 64, you’re probably familiar with Medicare ads, phone calls, or mailers featuring aggressive marketing tactics. Some of these promotions are not only pushy; they can also be misleading. For example, an ad might tout long lists of benefits available with Medicare Advantage plans—when, in reality, most plans only provide a subset of the larger list of benefits. In addition, the value of these benefits likely isn’t as good as advertised, and insurance companies can make benefits difficult to claim.

A smart way to help avoid pitfalls tied to misleading ads is to arm yourself with knowledge and a trusted advisor in your corner. Mercer Advisors clients have access to a team of dedicated Medicare advisors from Chapter a leading tech-driven Medicare advisor, to help guide clients aged 64 and older in optimizing their coverage, at no cost. If you’re interested, you can schedule an appointment with one of them here.

For now, let’s dive into the most common Medicare mistakes, the role misleading ads play, and how you can avoid common pitfalls.


Mistake #1: Not shopping around for coverage

There are thousands of Medicare plans, and each of them may represent a distinctive combination of benefits and costs (both in premiums and out-of-pocket costs). Suboptimal Medicare coverage can cost you thousands of dollars, so it’s critical to be aware of the options available to you and compare the pros and cons. These options include various supplemental insurance types (e.g., Medigap and Medicare Advantage) as well as different plans within the same type (e.g., different Medicare Advantage plans featuring distinctive benefits and pricing).

Unfortunately, insurance companies and Medicare professionals may not have your best interests at heart. To drive enrollment, they may produce ads that can bend the truth or sell benefits that don’t add the expected value. When you’re considering Medicare options, don’t be swayed by advertisements featuring exciting Medicare Advantage benefits, like Part B givebacks or fitness perks. If you feel as if you’re missing out on something worthwhile, it’s best to discuss your priorities and options with a Medicare agent. Your agent can help you understand the true value of different options and help you avoid the risk of losing coverage for something important (like prescriptions and preferred doctors) only to receive a benefit worth less than advertised.


Mistake #2: Not using an independent, unbiased agent

When you speak with a Medicare insurance agent, ask questions to assess whether they can speak to your best interests. You’ll want to work with someone who isn’t biased toward, incentivized by a specific insurance carrier and makes recommendations free from the influence of insurance-company commissions.

Unfortunately, many agents will mention only those Medicare plans that compensate them to do so. They often use the same tactics and allure of shiny benefits that Medicare ads use to convince you that a given plan is your best choice. If it feels as if your agent is pushing you toward a specific plan, ask the agent which insurance companies they represent and how they get paid, so you can ensure the agent isn’t misleading you the way TV ads seek to.


Mistake #3: Not understanding Medicare enrollment periods

By understanding Medicare enrollment periods and who qualifies for each, you can feel more confident in ignoring the ads you see and the phone calls and mailers you may receive. Instead, reach out to your trusted Medicare agent during enrollment periods for which you’re eligible, to make sure you’re still on the plan that provides the best value for you.

In this scenario, ads may remind you to reach out to your Medicare agent rather than convince you to re-enroll or change your Medicare plan. Some ads may be scary, making you feel a need to choose a new plan or re-enroll. But, by understanding how open enrollment works, you’ll know if you really need to switch.

By understanding the basics of Medicare and finding an unbiased agent (and trusted advisor) to support your Medicare needs year after year, you may avoid pitfalls stemming from the misleading and aggressive Medicare-marketing tactics.

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