How Medicare Advantage Ads Can Be Misleading: What To Know
When I was approaching a certain birthday, I was swamped with mail, email and texts touting Medicare Advantage plans.
Also known as “Part C,” Medicare Advantage is a third-party alternative to traditional Medicare that combines a bundle of services such as drug coverage in one policy.
But Part C can be a muddle, mostly because it’s hard to tell if you’re getting a good deal and the advertising can be confusing and misleading.
“It is true that the vast majority of Advantage plans provide some type of vision, dental and hearing coverage,” writes Kim Blanton in her fine Squared Away blog. “And retirees with these benefits in their Advantage plans spend slightly less for the services than other retirees, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare non-profit, found. But the devil is in the details.”
Here are some sticking points in how Part C is offered, notes Blanton, citing Kaiser research.
- The average dollar limit for vision benefits in Advantage plans was $160 in 2021, said Meredith Freed, Kaiser’s senior policy advocate. “That $160 probably wouldn’t be enough to pay for an exam and buy the prescription glasses. The television and mailed advertisements are short on these details.”
- Dental coverage for preventive services, such as cleanings and X-rays coverage might be useful, but the (advertised) plan (examined) might not cover cavities, root canals and caps. “Or, if they are covered, a $1,000 limit is fairly common and insufficient for many expensive procedures,” Freed said.
- And what about the two out of three Advantage plans that do not charge a premium? The ads touting “zero premiums” aren’t usually clear that you’re still responsible for Medicare’s Part B premium of $164.90 per month.
How do you find some clear, honest information on Part C plans? “If online searches aren’t turning up the information you need, try calling your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (or SHIP). Every state has one,” Blanton advises.
Also check out Medicare.gov, the official government site. It’s basic information, but a good place to start. When you’re turning 65, there’s a lot to know about Medicare, but you definitely need to do some homework.