They Killed A Tree In Your Honor

The last thing I tell all of my new Medicare clients is that they will receive their insurance cards, a Welcome Kit, and lots of stuff related to their new coverage.  “They are going to kill a tree in your honor” is how I try to put this into perspective.  And even with that, at least one client calls each month to let me know how much correspondence they are receiving from one of their new insurers.  This, of course, leads us to an important question:

When is junk mail not junk?

This is a serious question.   Overwhelmed by conflicting and confusing correspondence from their insurer, especially the Medicare Part D (Rx) insurance companies, they invariably miss an important letter or billing statement.  AND THEY LAPSE THEIR POLICY!  I have seen clients lapse policies that have a premium of less than $10 per month.  And once it is gone, it is gone.  The policy won’t be reinstated.  The Medicare beneficiary, in most cases, is stuck without prescription drug coverage until the next Annual Enrollment Period.  This is not a money issue.  I have had professionals, a doctor, a financial planner, and business owners lapse their Medicare Part D (Rx) plans.  And though the insurance company is flooding their clients’ mailboxes, there is absolutely no correspondence with the agents.  NONE. The policy is normally terminated before we learn that there is a problem.  My peers and I are trying to change this, but until then, open all of the mail from your insurer.  And call your agent if you receive something that doesn’t make sense.

When is junk mail really junk?

The postcard was green.  Seriously.  The government is not sending you a green postcard about your Medicare benefits.  This client was amused.  The other side of the postcard noted that this was registered to her.  She might qualify for a Medicare plan with $3,500 coverage for routine dental and/or $325 for healthy food options at certain grocery stores.  There was more and a phone number to call.  And, in almost impossibly small and faint print, the legally required disclosures.  All Medicare marketing materials must contain the following verbiage: “We do not offer every plan available in your area.  Currently, we represent 7 organizations which offer 62 products in your area.  Please contact, 1-800-MEDICARE, or your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get information on all of your options”.  It is required.

This is just a sales pitch, no better and no worse than the rest of the junk mail we receive almost every day.   And even though the disclosures are really difficult to read, the green postcard and heavy-handed text (Do Not Discard) make this hard to take seriously.  It is the very definition of junk mail.

But the promise of something for nothing is very tempting.

I received a call last week from a wealthy couple.  He owns a successful business and she has been a self-employed consultant for decades.  They called about the FREE GROCERIES.  I asked them if they needed free groceries.  I reminded them that they actually pay the Income-Related Monthly Adjusted Amount (IRMAA), a fee paid by less than 10% of all Medicare beneficiaries.  So, for real, is anyone giving you free groceries or are you being sold something you really don’t want?  Gosh we all love free stuff.  And the television commercials and junk mail stoke that fire.

We are going to get more junk mail, not less.  And there is pending legislation in Columbus to make it easier for unscrupulous marketers to call you and even to come knocking, uninvited, at your door.   Read the mail from your insurer, throw away the junk, and when in doubt, call your agent.


Picture – Wasted Paper / Wasted Time – David L Cunix

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