Yes, we feel your pain.
It seems like every year there’s a new set of compliance rules that agents must follow when selling Medicare Advantage and Part D plans. Some are a minor nuisance; others require scrambling to find and put new systems in place before the deadline (call recording, anybody?).
Remember why CMS does this: They are trying to protect Medicare beneficiaries against misleading and confusing sales and marketing tactics, and make sure these consumers get the right help to end up with the appropriate plan for their needs. This is the same goal that most independent agents have when selling Medicare plans.
While most independent agents focus on providing the best service possible, there are some bad actors. According to CMS, the number of consumer complaints rose from 15,497 in 2020 to 39,617 in 2021.
What are these aggressive marketing tactics? We’ve seen the TV ads, but that’s not where it ends. Here are some examples of “aggressive marketing tactics” provided by CMS, uncovered by their secret shoppers in 2022:
Seniors shopping at their local grocery store are approached by insurance agents and
asked to switch their Medicare coverage or MA plan.
Insurance agents selling new MA plans tell seniors that their doctors are covered by the
new plans. Seniors who switch plans find out months later that their doctor is actually
out-of-network, and they have to pay out-of-pocket to visit their doctor.
Seniors receive mailers that look like official business from a Federal agency, yet the
mailer is a marketing prompt from an MA plan or its agent or broker.
An insurance agent calls seniors 20 times a day, attempting to convince them to switch
their Medicare coverage.
Widespread television advertisements with celebrities claim that seniors are missing out
on benefits, including higher Social Security payments, in order to prompt seniors to call
MA plan agent or broker hotlines.
Not good. When you hear reports like this, it’s easy to understand why CMS is cracking down.
(You can see more stories and an in-depth analysis of deceptive marketing in this report done for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance: https://www.finance.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Deceptive Marketing Practices Flourish in Medicare Advantage.pdf)
There are many resources you can turn to that dive into the changes for 2024. We won’t go over all of them here. But there is one specific rule that directly affects AgentMethods’ customers and the service we provide: the TPMO (Third Party Marketing Organization) Disclaimer.
To make sure it’s clear to customers what companies and plans an agent can offer them, CMS has provided an updated TPMO disclaimer that agents must use in communication and marketing materials such as email, online chat, advertisements, and websites. The new disclaimer is:
“We do not offer every plan available in your area. Currently, we represent [insert number of organizations] organizations which offer [insert number of plans] plans in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov, 1–800–MEDICARE, or your local State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) to get information on all of your options.” (source: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-42/part-422/subpart-V#p-422.2267(e)(41))
But there’s one tiny problem with the new disclaimer…
While this new disclaimer is helpful for direct mail campaigns and one-on-one communications, it creates a problem when communicating with anonymous website visitors who don’t know their local area. In that case, you aren’t able to provide a correct number for organizations you work with and plans you offer within their area.
At AgentMethods, we are seeing creative solutions, such as:
To make sure we are getting this right, we went to the source and asked CMS directly what TPMO disclaimer agents should use on their websites. Here is what they said:
“It is acceptable for plans to use the old generic TPMO disclaimer on landing pages where no zip code can be provided, as long as they use the new disclaimer on the page where beneficiaries can input the zip code.”
They further confirmed that the old disclaimer can even be used on screens where the zip code can be entered because the consumer has not yet been located and identified. CMS also confirmed the previous, generic TPMO disclaimer that should be used on websites with anonymous traffic:
"We do not offer every plan available in your area. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.”
AgentMethods is here to help you keep your site up-to-date and compliant. If you are an AgentMethods customer and need to adjust the TPMO disclaimer on your website, newsletter, or email campaigns, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help.
If you aren’t an AgentMethods customer and you’d like to work with a website company that understands what TPMO, SOA, and MAPD stand for, let’s talk. You can set up a one-on-one conversation here.