Why are Medicare Advantage Plans Paying for Utilities?

Private Medicare Advantage plans offer a lot of extra benefits that are filling up all the ad time on your TV during the last three months of the year. When I explain to people that the benefits being touted are real, they seem shocked. The ads have a scam quality to them, but the benefits are legitimate. The catch is that not all plan have the same benefits. The benefits you see on TV may not be available in Indiana at all. In 2021 an insurance company was running a full page color ad in the Indy Star that said, “You may be eligible to receive $148 back in your Social Security check each month with this Medicare Advantage plan.” In reality, that company didn’t offer a plan like that anywhere in Indiana. Some companies will advertise state wide about their benefit, while that benefit may only be available in 5 counties. It’s a disservice to mislead the public with these types of ads—but the benefits are available somewhere.

They’re Available Somewhere, But Where??

The question then becomes, if X is offering rent assistance, groceries and pet food as a Medicare Advantage benefit, why? What does this have to do with Medicare? And why are Medicare Advantage plans paying for utilities? As it turns out, a lot of the health outcomes are not driven by how well you adhere to your doctor’s advice, but how hard you struggle to meet your basic financial needs. If you are discharged after a heart attack to a home with no heat and you now can’t drive to get groceries, you are likely to wind up readmitted to the hospital. The Medicare Advantage insurance company makes more profit when you get healthy and stay healthy. If they can help you with groceries, you might eat better. If they can help you with pet food, maybe you’ll have more money left to buy your own food. Pest control is an urgent health need if your house is infested.

Private Medicare is putting money into social determinants of health because they work.

Giving you a gym membership in 2006 was considered revolutionary! Imagine, your health plan allowing you to use the gym for free. It turns out that the vast majority of Seniors didn’t use the gym benefits. Many companies got rid of that benefit or scaled it back and instead invested money in things that people do use. One extra benefit that is often available in plans for people who have both Medicare and Medicaid, is transportation. Many people can’t drive, or don’t like to drive. Or don’t like to drive when they are sick, or don’t want to spend the money on high gas prices. Many plans offer some type of transportation benefit, either their own service of via Lyft or Uber vouchers. Each plan will have a set number of trips per year. Some plans will take you to your doctor, some will take you to the pharmacy and grocery store. What plans are available to you are based on your county and plan benefits change each year. It pays to take full advantage of your window to shop plans from October 1 – December 7th each year.

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Sylvia Gordon and her sister, Rebecca, run Gordon Marketing, one of the nation’s largest Medicare FMO/NMA offices. They have a team of over 100 that train and support independent insurance agents in all 50 states. You can find Sylvia’s weekly posts on LinkedIn and the sisters Youtube channel posts 2 training videos each week. Contact Sylvia at sgordon@gordonmarketing.com or 800-388-8342.

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