You’ve likely seen the Medicare commercials that feature celebrities. People like Joe Namath, William Shatner, and Jimmy Walker, among others.
Connie Health Co-founders Oded Eran and David Luna discussed the tactics these commercials use and whether they are Medicare scams.
Watch the video or read the transcription below to learn more.
Oded Eran: Hi, everyone. I’m Oded Eran. Co-founder and CEO of Connie Health. At Connie, we help older Americans save money and get better care by assisting them in finding the best insurance for their needs and the best doctors available. So they can get the care and afford the care they need.
Today I’m joined by David Luna. The Co-founder and the President of our company. And today, David, we’re going to talk about a topic that we get a lot of questions about. And this is, “What’s up with all these Medicare commercials? The Joe Namath, William Shatner commercials. Jimmy Walker. Why are all these companies using old-school celebrities to advertise Medicare?”
So, David, are those advertisements legit, or are they scams?
David Luna: So, man, that’s a tough question. The short answer, Oded, is no. They are not scams.
In order for them to have a commercial, to begin with, they have to be approved through Medicare to have those commercials. So, the commercials are legitimate. They are not a scam.
However, you may not be eligible for the benefits that they offer. So, it is a technique. You, know, hiding behind. I say “hiding” because they have a celebrity at the forefront rather than having someone person-to-person. They are trying to get the phones to ring. They are trying to make you call them.
Oded Eran: And there’s no shame in that. They are trying to get the phone to ring. And I think we often hear customers call in and say, “Oh, they’re promising to put money back into my Social Security. Am I eligible for that?”
Most often, the answer is no.
They are targeting people who are eligible for Extra Help, with these benefits that get the phone to ring. And, ya, it is compliant. But most of the time, when you see that commercial, you’re not eligible for those flashy benefits.
David, you’ve been doing this for 20 years. You’ve helped thousands of people on Medicare. For those people watching those commercials at home, what’s your recommendation? How should they interpret what they see on TV?
David Luna: Well, listen. Sometimes I see those commercials, and I even want to make a phone call because they sound so good. I can’t wait to be Medicare-eligible, right?!
But all I can say is be careful when you call these folks. It is a call center. They are trying to get you to call in. If you’re not eligible for the benefits they’re talking about on the television, you know, they may switch to, “Hey, but you are eligible for this. What do you think? Let’s talk about it, right?” And so, be very careful about that.
For our agency, Connie Health, we believe in local support. So we have local agents there that live in your community. If you need to get ahold of us, you can get ahold of a live body. You can get ahold of some of our support staff. It’s not so with a call center. Call centers are very large. If somebody, if you end up enrolling with somebody into a plan, the odds of reaching that same person again are very slim.
Oded Eran: At Connie, we deal with many people who have been put on a sub-optimal plan by calling these 1-800 numbers. All of a sudden, they realize they’re on a plan that they were not really sure that they actually enrolled in. Or that doesn’t accept their PCP (Primary Care Physician). Or, suddenly, they’re paying way too much for their drugs. Those are stories that we hear all year round, right David?
David Luna: Ya, and there’s a tradeoff. You mentioned earlier getting money back in my Social Security. That’s great and all, right? I’d love to get some money back in my Social Security. But there’s a trade-off to that, right? Your prescription drug co-pay may be higher. Your hospitalization copays may be higher. As you mentioned, they may not have your providers.
I do have, and I won’t mention any names. But there was a particular case where we spent several days trying to get that person back on the original plan. They literally called in, and they put them on a plan that wasn’t even in their county, right? And so, when they say, “Give us your zip code,” why? You put me in the wrong plan anyway.
Oded Eran: Well, so, David. Talk about that. That person that we had to help go back to their original plan. What would have happened to them if they end up at the hospital? Like, would there be no coverage?
David Luna: There would be no coverage, Oded. That plan was literally not in that county. So, they could simply wipe their hands and say, “Sorry, we don’t know why you enrolled in this plan.”
Oded Eran: Ya, one of the craziest stories that I’ve heard. And I actually heard this from a CEO directly. A CEO from a large health plan told me they found out that customers who are on a Medicare Supplement plan are calling in because of the extra dental benefits, and they are being put on a Medicare Advantage plan without knowing that they will no longer have their Medicare Supplement plan.
So, someone is offering them thousands of dollars in dental benefits for $0, and customers are like, “Oh, ya, that sounds great.” They sign up and don’t realize they have lost their Medicare Supplement. And if they want to go back, they have to go through underwriting and have a pretty big increase in their premium. So, that’s one of the things we’ve heard a lot about.
David Luna: That’s another word of caution, right? Be careful when switching plans because you may not be able to go back to the plan you originally had.
And so, it’s always nice to have somebody local that you can reach out to. And can sit down with you for, if it takes an hour or an hour and a half, so be it. But we want to explain to people the pros and cons of these plans that you’re looking at and which one is best for you.
And, I think, for call centers. And correct me if I’m wrong here. I could be speaking way out of turn. But call centers are timed, right? When you take a call, you can’t be on that call for an hour. You better be getting that next call and getting that next sale.
Oded Eran: Yep. That is absolutely right.
Again, thank you, David. This is a big topic that is top of mind for a lot of members and a lot of seniors out there.
What exactly are these Medicare commercials all about? And to just sum it up. There’s nothing necessarily illegal in them or non-compliant. But this is a really big case of “buyer beware.”
Beware of companies hiding behind celebrities. Be careful of companies hiding behind 1-800 numbers.
From our experience, the best outcomes are reached by working with somebody that’s a local agent. That’s an expert in your local healthcare landscape and somebody you can call if you have any issues. If you need any customer service. It’s something that we offer at Connie Health. But other local independent agents do as well. And so that is always our recommendation to friends and family. Work with a local agent. An independent agent. That’s how you’ll typically get the best deal and be able to have service after you enroll in a plan.
David Luna: It all sounds good until you have to use your benefits.
Oded Eran: Yes, exactly. Everybody is friendly when they are trying to sell you a plan. What happens after you enroll? We always tell our customers that.
David Luna: It all sounds good until you have to use the benefits. And then you’re like, “Wait a minute! What happened?!” Right, so buyer beware, and thank you, Oded. I think it is one of the most important topics we’ve discussed.
Oded Eran: Wonderful.
Thank you, everyone, for tuning in with us today. I’m Oded Eran. Co-founder and CEO. My partner, David Luna, is the Co-founder and President of Connie Health. If you like what you’ve seen, please follow us on social media or visit us on our website, or give us a call. We’d be happy to help you in any way, shape, or form we can.
Read more by David Luna
I am a Spanish-speaking Arizona Life and Health Insurance Licensed Agent and have been helping people with Medicare since 2005. I am a Marine Corps Veteran & former police officer. I enjoy watching football and basketball but hold family time in the highest regard.