Cold Calls to Medicare Beneficiaries are Unethical

Cold calling Medicare beneficiaries is against Medicare rules, but this being a slow time of year for insurance agents, seniors are getting calls that might disturb and/or confuse them.

I was told by a Tucson insurance broker that one of her clients called to say he had received a call from an insurance agent. The agent said he needed to meet with the senior to go over big changes coming to Medicare. The senior who received the call was quite concerned about this news, but because he has a good relationship with his insurance broker, he called her.  The insurance broker gave me the phone number of the insurance agent and I decided that inquiring minds need to know what’s going on.

This agent works for the local office of a national insurance company that deals mostly in long term care insurance and annuities. I called the number I was given and asked the agent why he was calling Medicare beneficiaries.  The agent said he is calling people to tell them about big changes coming to Medicare Advantage in 2015. When I asked what those changes are, he said “Obamacare is cutting $163 billion from Medicare Advantage”. He said this will mean a lot of changes for people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans in Tucson, including people losing their plan.

I informed this agent that: 1) cold calling Medicare beneficiaries to tell them he needs to come to their house to talk about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare is against Medicare rules; 2) he has no way of knowing whether or not there will be big changes to Medicare Advantage plans in 2015; and 3) he should not be scaring seniors with rumors and misinformation.

The agent was quite upset with me and said, “I can call anybody to talk to them about Medicare as long as they are not on the ‘Do Not Call’ list”.  He said agents who sell Medicare Advantage lie to people and neglect to tell them about their co-pays for hospital stays and doctor visits.  I told him that would be unethical. I also told him that insurance agents who present Medicare Advantage plans must go through the entire summary of benefits and explain all co-pays, so I think he is misinformed.  I said I hope he isn’t sharing this kind of misinformation with seniors because that would be unethical.

We had a long and heated discussion about Medicare rules and how Obamacare affects Medicare. What we did not talk about was why he wants to get in front of seniors and why he wants to get into their homes. He said he educates people – but nobody makes money educating people. The actual reason to get into seniors’ homes is to pitch products like long term care insurance or annuities.

I told this agent it is unethical to solicit appointments with seniors based on “educating them about Medicare”.  I also told him that if he is being trained to get appointments using false pretenses and misinformation, he is being used.  This is the type of behavior that gives all insurance agents and brokers a bad name.

The learning point here is that if someone calls you (or your parents) to say they need to drop by to “educate” you about Medicare changes, just hang up.


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