Letter to the editor: Be very wary of ‘Medicare’ pitch

It’s that time of year when we are overwhelmed by thoughts of family, Christmas plans, to-travel-or-not-to-travel and of course, turkeys and stuffing. But there’s one other thing. We get buried, both on TV and in our mail, by an onslaught of warnings: It’s time for Medicare Advantage enrollments!! It is only open a while! Don’t lose your opportunity! The Advantage Plan hucksters were emerging out of their almost yearlong hibernation.

A couple of weeks ago I got a letter from a UVM Health Advantage plan. I threw it away. Then I began thinking, as it was announcing itself via UVM, maybe it was legit. I retrieved it and called the number. Immediately, I realized it was more scam. A somewhat mild man answered the phone, not from UVM insurance office, but clearly as an Advantage rep. (From here on in I will just use the term “Advantage Plan” — not “Medicare Advantage Plan” — to cover these scams as there is a bill going through the House by Reps Mark Pokan and Ro Khanna to strengthen Medicare and to allow only Medicare to call itself Medicare.) 

I ranted firmly and said I knew this was a scam; that while funded by the government, profits also came from refusing clients’ claims about 17%-20% of the time; that when some magical percentage is achieved there will be efforts to privatize Medicare and end it; and even if people want to change back to Medicare, it’s fairly difficult. 

There was a momentary silence and then he said, “I agree with your numbers except it is not that difficult to go back to Medicare.” I was stunned: he didn’t dispute my “numbers.” Then I asked to be removed from the mailing list. Done. (Another source of their “profits” is by inflating prices. In 2020, the Medicare Commission tracked a minimum of $12 billion inflated dollars.)

Since then, I’ve noticed one or two more “Advantage Plans” advertising with hospital connections much like the UVM approach. And then this, on the other side of the coin: the Mayo Clinics will not accept advantage plan patients. So, there’s a debate behind the scenes. And one last thing to be aware of: whether you’ve decided on an Advantage plan, make certain it’s your decision. There have been complaints about some medical personnel just enrolling their patients without any consulting.

Fortunately, enrollment is moving to closure on Dec. 7.

Heidi Holliger


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