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Columbia Business Monthly

Get Everything You Deserve with Medicare

Oct 04, 2023 11:58AM ● By Guy Furay

If you’ve watched any television in the last several years, you’re no doubt familiar with Joe Namath’s appealing messages to Medicare beneficiaries. Namath’s Medicare commercials are everywhere! But he is far from the only celebrity pitching different Medicare choices. You’ll also see Jimmie “JJ” Walker, William Shatner, Joe Montana, and many others as well. 

Have you ever wondered why you see this verifiable landslide of Medicare ads featuring celebrities? The short answer is that these ads work and work well. In advertising, when something works well, you’re bound to see much more of it. 

Have you ever thought about why these particular Medicare ads work? In my opinion, these carefully crafted advertisements work because they offer what seems to be an amazing and incredible deal.  

First, let’s examine the word choices, each one is carefully chosen. 

1. “Medicare Open Enrollment is simple. Just a quick call to the Medicare Helpline Number on your screen.”  

This is an incredibly appealing message because let’s face it – the one thing Medicare is not is simple. It’s actually a complex system with a lot of different choices and very different plans. One thing most people do not understand is that the “Medicare Helpline” featured so prominently in these ads is staffed by a call center promoting only Medicare Advantage plans and only one specific plan the advertiser wants you to buy.  

2. “Dental, vision, drugs, hearing, rides to the doctor, money for vitamins, and even home-cooked meals.” 

What these messages intend to portray is convenience. One-stop shopping. They are also positioned to make Medicare Advantage plans more attractive than Medicare supplements, which do not include these extra benefits. 

3. “They instantly looked up my coverage.”  

Again, this is promising something incredibly appealing: speed and convenience. The fact is, as a complex product, Medicare decisions need to be carefully considered and well thought out, not instantaneous. The decisions you make in which Medicare plan you choose might affect you not only for the rest of the year but could also affect you for the rest of your life. Not at all something you want to have “instantly” when you put this in the proper context. 

4. “Eliminating copays.”

Some Medicare Advantage plans can and do eliminate copayments, but they may do so at the cost of several thousand dollars of additional exposure to out-of-pocket costs. 

5. “Get money added to your Social Security check. Every. Single. Month.”   

Again, this is an incredibly appealing message. Many seniors live on a very fixed income and that money can really matter. How could anyone possibly resist? 

What the ad doesn’t tell you is that these types of features are only available on Advantage plans, and even then, only available on certain plans in certain geographical areas to certain people. What the ad certainly doesn’t disclose is that often the “giveback” plans have significantly reduced benefits in other areas, or they may even come with a significant increase in overall out-of-pocket exposure. 

The old adage is, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” 

It’s very true in this situation. Another old adage is, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” 

In the case of the pervasive marketing of Medicare Advantage plans, the old Latin phrase was caveat emptor – which means, “buyer beware.”  

We have established how and why Joe Namath’s ads can be misleading. 

But many of you may be wondering, how do I sort through all the marketing and all the messages and choose the right plan for me? 

The only way you can know the answer to that question is to meet with a professional insurance agent. They should take the time and ask you questions to find out what’s important to you. When we know what is important to you, then we can find the plan that fits you best.

Guy Furay is owner of the Insurance Source, an independent

brokerage specializing in health, life, disability, and dental insurance.

The Insurance Source has helped others protect what matters most

since 2005 and is located in Greer, South Carolina. Learn more