By Ken Reed

When it comes to sales pitches to seniors about insurance to fill the gaps in Medicare coverage, there is a lot of incomplete and deceptive information involved. And sometimes, total misinformation.

Unfortunately, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath is contributing to the confusing mess.

In a TV ad, Namath tells viewers to “get everything you’re entitled to.” He then lists several extra benefits seniors can get by purchasing Medicare Advantage plans, “all at no extra cost,” according to Namath. He then urges people to “call the number on your screen now. It’s free.”

There’s only one problem. The actual cost can be substantial. A couple who buys a Medicare Advantage plan could pay up to $13,400 a year before their new plan pays for anything.

According to Trudy Lieberman, a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a health, retirement and insurance writer for Consumer Reports and Columbia Journalism Review:

“These are new benefits the government has allowed private insurers to sell in the hope of getting more seniors to leave traditional Medicare in favor of a privatized system. By transferring more costs to seniors, the government saves money.”

The bottom line: Congress has allowed a complicated and chaotic marketplace for seniors to navigate.

“It’s just too complicated,” says Bonnie Burns, a Medicare consumer advocate.

“No wonder people throw up their hands. That’s why people sign up for an Advantage plan with little or no premium and find out what the costs really are as they use benefits through the year.”

Burns added, “It would be so much easier if Medicare Advantage plans and drug plans were standardized so people could figure this out.”

Namath’s endorsement has only served to muddy the waters further for seniors.

Say it ain’t so Joe.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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