Just eight days into the marketing period for the 2022 Medicare plan year, CMS issued a memo on third-party marketing that, while expected, has led to some confusion among Medicare Advantage plans and their industry partners regarding already finalized marketing materials.

In an Oct. 8 memo from the Medicare Drug & Health Plan Contract Administration Group, Director Kathryn Coleman reminds MA organizations that they are responsible for the activities of first tier, downstream or related entities (FDRs), including those marketing on their behalf. The memo did not come as a surprise given increasing reports of aggressive and misleading marketing practices that plans say has resulted in members leaving the plan who never intended to switch, but experts take issue with the timing.

“CMS is particularly concerned with national advertisements promoting MA plan benefits and cost savings, which are only available in limited service areas or for limited groups of enrollees, as well as using words and imagery that may confuse beneficiaries or cause them to believe the advertisement is coming directly from the government,” writes Coleman. Moreover, the agency has received complaints from beneficiaries and caregivers about “sales tactics designed to rush or push beneficiaries into enrolling into a plan.”

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