Marketing and Events by Insurance Companies

Q: My assisted living facility has advertised an event to help people with Medicare questions, but I noticed that the speaker is from a specific insurance company, NOT from Medicare. Are insurance companies allowed to have these kinds of events? 

A: Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans have to follow specific rules when it comes to marketing, marketing materials, and marketing events. The type of event your facility is hosting probably falls under the category of an Educational Event.

Educational Events led by Insurance Companies are designed to inform Medicare beneficiaries about MA Plans, Prescription Drug Plans, or other Medicare Plans. They are not intended to discuss specific insurance plan benefits or to enlist potential enrollees in to any specific health care plan.

During these events, insurance companies must adhere to spending limits toward food and promotional products provided, and they may only distribute business cards upon your request.

Insurance companies may also participate in formal and informal marketing events. These can include speaking events about the specific plans they offer or a booth or table manned by a representative of a specific company.

Some of the rules that would apply to the Plan during this type of event would be:

  • when conducted in a healthcare setting, marketing events must be held in a commons area ,not in a patient treatment area
  • meals may not be provided, but light snacks and beverages are permitted
  • marketing presentations must be pre-approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

Mailed marketing materials must be pre-approved by CMS. All mailings should fit in one of the following four categories and should be labeled as such on the front of the mailing:

  • Advertising pieces
  • Plan information
  • Health and wellness information
  • Non-health or non-plan information

Emails and phone calls from insurance companies cannot be unsolicited. This means that an agent may only call you with your permission.

Other specific activities that are not allowed by insurance companies include:

  • door-to-door solicitations
  • leaving information, flyers, etc. on your car
  • telephonic or electronic solicitation your phone, voicemail, or text messaging
  • approaching you in commons areas, such as sidewalks, parking lots, hallways, etc.
  • calling or visiting you after a sales event unless you’ve given them permission

These guidelines do not apply to agents selling Medicare Supplement insurance policies.  If you have questions about your Medicare Advantage Plans or anything else related to Medicare, contact SHIP for help. Call 1-800-452-4800, or visit www.medicare.in.gov. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.