State Insurance Official Testifies Before Congress on
Abusive Medicare Advantage Sales Practices
From: Office of the
State Insurance Commissioner Filed 6/26/07
Deputy Insurance Commissioner Lee Harrell testified before a Congressional
sub-committee today on the problems Mississippi faces regarding the spread
of abusive Medicare insurance sales practices. Harrell was joined by
fellow state regulators Commissioner Kim Holland of Oklahoma, and
Commissioner Jim Poolman of North Dakota, in testifying before the House
Energy & Commerce - Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee at a hearing
on "Predatory Sales Practices in Medicare Advantage."
"Mississippi takes seriously its duty to protect its consumers while
promoting a healthy insurance market, but the way the current Medicare
Advantage system is designed, we are precluded from fully meeting that
duty. We must work together to protect our Senior Citizens," Harrell said
in opening remarks.
He told the committee that the Mississippi Insurance Department (MID) had
received as many as 1,000 complaints from consumers, not including
complaints that have been filed with other state agencies such as the
Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS).
Also, when asked the difference between problems that evolved in selling
other products and Medicare Advantage plans, Mr. Harrell replied, "Just
look at the victims, the elderly, and the ill that may or may not have the
physical or mental ability to make informed decisions about these
Harrell stressed that while these plans could be beneficial to some people
and not all agents are engaging in these deceptive practices, the
difficulties lay in the fact that the states have regulatory authority
over the agents but possess no authority over Medicare Advantage plans,
which are subject solely to federal jurisdiction. He urged the committee
to give states the regulatory authority over Medicare Advantage plans by
allowing states to enforce federal minimum standards, much like Congress
did in the 1990's when similar problems arose with Medigap plans.
Harrell also testified that another major problem in this growing
nationwide issue, is inadequate training of agents. He noted that the
company which touts the best training of its agents provides only 10 hours
of training-all in one sitting.
"Despite limited jurisdiction, Mississippi has been as proactive as
possible by educating recipients and helping victims get disenrolled from
Medicare Advantage Plans and re-enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B,"
The MID continues to receive complaints where some Medicare recipients are
being enrolled in these plans without fully understanding their terms, and
in some cases, without even knowing they have been enrolled. All Medicare
recipients and their family members are urged to be vigilant when
selecting a Medicare Part C or Part D plan, and if an agent uses abusive
sales practices, to contact the MID immediately.
Among the abusive Medicare Part C and D practices being reported are
door-to-door solicitations. Conducting a door-to-door solicitation or
outreach prior to being invited by a Medicare recipient is prohibited. If
someone comes to the door without having been invited, the recipient
should not let them into the home. Also, recipients should do not give
that person any information or let him or her see any of your personal
documents. The recipient should not sign anything for that person.
Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of abusive Medicare
Insurance sales practices is urged to contact MID as soon as possible at
1-800-562-2957. For any other questions regarding Medicare Part C and D
policies, they should contact MDHS at 1-800-948-3090.