Saturday, 26 November 2022

Bill seeks to prevent Medicare sales fraud

SACRAMENTO The state Assembly’s health policy experts on late Tuesday agreed with Assemblywoman Patty Berg that California needs stricter rules for the way insurance agents can deal with the elderly and poor who rely on Medicare coverage.


Members of the influential Assembly Health Committee voted 12-4 to support Berg’s AB 2842, which would prohibit agents from using bait-and-switch techniques or other come-ons to sell policies and products to Medicare recipients.


“Believe me, seniors like myself get all sorts of solicitations from insurance agents for various insurance products,” said Berg, D-Eureka. “Seniors must have rights when they are dealing with Medicare and other insurance products. We have a lot of people out there trying to get at their money.”


Under the bill, insurance agents have to be up-front about their desire to sell something. They have to identify themselves as agents, and they can’t make an appointment to talk about Medicare Part D coverage and then use the time to sell other insurance products or services, unless those other products were mentioned when the appointment is made.


This is in keeping with other California law that requires agents to give seniors advance notice of a sales call so that seniors aren’t caught off guard without time to consult with family or other advisors.


Many seniors have come to rely on the help of insurance agents to help them through the maze-like system of Medicare law. Advising seniors on Medicare products is a growing industry. Berg’s bill takes aim at agents using tactics that take advantage of seniors and their pocketbooks by enrolling them in inappropriate plans.


“There are serious consequences for seniors who end up enrolled in the wrong plan,” said Berg. “Creating parameters for insurance agents will help seniors make informed choices regarding one of their most precious resources, their health care.”


In most cases, once seniors enroll in unneeded Medicare plans, they can not back out until the next annual open enrollment period. Being on fixed incomes to begin with, unwanted premiums can put a severe strain on a senior’s budget.


The bill is similar to a Maine law passed last year, and California will be the second state to institute this type of reform.


Berg, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, is considered the Assembly’s key policy advocate on senior issues. This year, she has introduced a trio of bills that seek to regulate insurance agents and financial advisors.


AB 2842 now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Visit Berg's Web site at http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a01/.


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