See the ads on TV advertising Medicare Advantage Plans with lots of free stuff? Not so fast! My mama used to say the devil is in the details. If I was Paul Harvey (God rest his soul), I’d be shouting from the roof tops, wait! “Here’s the rest of the story!”

We receive phone calls almost on a daily basis from clients with questions about the plan they selected when they signed up for their Medicare Advantage plan, and then later want to know how come my plan doesn’t give me all this free stuff that I see on TV? (Their plan does, they just forgot!)

Well known sports figures, actors, politicians, and just about anybody that is famous, is being paid big bucks to hawk Medicare Advantage plans on TV, radio and in newsprint. They repeat as many times as possible in the 60-second TV or radio ad, going on and on about all the free stuff you get with this or with that plan.

Buyer beware. These plans are Medicare Advantage Plans. While these plans, offered by carriers, are Medicare-approved, these plans vary greatly with additional services that they claim are free. All these plans must offer uniform medical services as directed by Medicare. But services like free eyeglasses, dental services, hearing aids, transportation to and from your doctor appointments, and gym memberships vary by plan.

And the thing about the free? There’s a catch that they don’t bother to tell you in the 60-second commercial. How much free and how often? For example, vision benefits are required by Medicare and while medical issues with vision, such as cataract surgery, glaucoma, and wet macular degeneration are covered, Medicare doesn’t require plans to offer glasses. This is where the confusion about free glasses come in. Some plans offer free glasses, some offer discounts, and some don’t cover glasses at all.

There is a big difference betweenMedicare Advantage plans; different doctors, different hospitals, different labs, different co-pays for services, etc. While there is a certain uniformity of medical services these plans are required to offer by Medicare, some of these plans offer supplemental benefits that Medicare doesn’t require them to offer. This is where most of the confusion comes in.

Confused? Don’t forget that the Annual Election Period (AEP) is October 15th through December 7th when you can switch plans for a January 1st start date! So do your shopping and compare. If you are already a client, you should have received your reminder email informing you of this time to check your alternatives for 2020 plans. It has been our experience that Medicare data is not accurate for next year’s plans until about 20 days after plans become public. So, we reach out to our clients with recommendations the week of October 21.