Advocates for people with disabilities are calling on regulators to halt what they describe as misleading Medicare Advantage marketing by UnitedHealth Group.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy, National Health Law Program, Disability Rights Connecticut and National Disability Rights Network wrote the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Federal Trade Commission and other state and federal agencies Thursday to protest UnitedHealthcare advertisements for Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans appearing in Connecticut. The ads target people with both Medicare and Medicaid and spotlight extra benefits from Medicare Advantage plans that state and federal laws already require, the groups wrote.
“Unquestionably, this misleading advertising is intended to induce, and has induced, thousands if not tens of thousands of older adults and disabled low-income individuals we are charged with representing to sign up for UnitedHealthcare’s plan, having been led to believe this means they can get extra benefits,” the letter says.
UnitedHealth Group did not immediately respond to an interview request.
The UnitedHealthcare ads tout dental care, eye examinations and non-emergency medical transportation as benefits dual-eligible people can receive from its Medicare Advantage plans. Likewise, the insurer highlights the lack of monthly premiums and cost-sharing requirements. Yet Connecticut Medicaid rules and federal rules for D-SNPs combine to make those features mandatory for this population.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy and other organizations call on regulators to fine UnitedHealth Group and ban its ads in Connecticut. The company should have to notify enrollees in the state that it may have misled them and explain how to opt out of their plans, the groups wrote. The authorities should investigate all Medicare Advantage advertising in Connecticut and enforce similar actions against other companies, they wrote.
"It's almost like there's no regulations. Nobody's watching the store and [UnitedHealth] thinks they can just say whatever. It's shocking how blatant it is and it's directed only at duals," said Sheldon Toubman, a litigation attorney at Disability Rights Connecticut.
Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage ends Thursday, but dual eligible people can sign up all year. Additionally, CMS allows beneficiaries to change plans if they are victims of misleading marketing. CMS has finalized several rules in recent years targeting deceptive Medicare Advantage advertising amid a rise in consumer complaints.