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Question 4 of 4 in Considerations When Buying Health Insurance Purchase
More ways health insurance companies can use advertising to mess with you
In a previous article we discussed some of the ways advertising by health insurance companies and/or their agents can make the process of purchasing a health insurance policy more difficult than it needs to be. While advertising is regulated by state insurance departments, the advertisements in most cases are not reviewed in advance by the insurance departments - thus, the opportunity for abuse by health insurance companies and/or their agents.

Here are some additional ways an health insurer can deceive you with their advertising:

  1. Using words such as "only", "just", "merely", "minimum" when describing exceptions and reductions and limitations in coverage. An advertisement should keep descriptive adjectives to a minimum. Be wary of any ad that has many such words. A good ad that may be trustworthy is one that concentrates on just stating the facts.
  2. Stating that the applicant’s medical history will not affect the issuance of the policy or payment of a claim when the policy does not cover losses resulting from pre-existing conditions. Such a statement is a deception because, while medical history may not affect issuance of the policy, treatment for pre-existing conditions will be excluded and the pre-existing condition exclusion may be the reason the policy was issued without a concern for medical history.
  3. Using photographs, illustrations or depictions in a misleading or deceptive manner, e.g., an image that unduly emphasizes the risk covered by a policy. This form of advertising borders on the sensational and is a red flag to the consumer to stay away from that insurer and or agent.
  4. Failing to disclose any financial interest in or benefit derived from an insurer by a person doing a testimonial for an insurance product of the insurer. This is just dishonest and deceptive advertising. If the ad does not clearly state the relationship, whatever it is, avoid the product.
  5. Using statistics that are irrelevant or that do not tell all of the relevant facts. This is difficult for the average consumer to ascertain – especially if it is relevant facts that are not being mentioned. How do you know what is not being mentioned? The best advice – apply common sense and ask probing questions. As we all know, "experts" and clever use of statistics can be used to show anything.
  6. Representing that claim settlements are "liberal" or "generous" or similar wording. Rare is the case, if ever, when an insurer will pay more than it knows is due. Insurers do not give money away that is not owed. In fact, they are inclined to do the opposite. Beyond that, it is an irresponsible, perhaps desperate, business practice for an insurer to pay more than it owes.
  7. Using an unusual amount paid on a unique claim as though it is representative of normal claim paying. This is flat out deception. If the example given seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask questions. Get the facts. Ask for evidence that the example is common practice.
  8. Doing unfair or incomplete comparisons with the policies of other companies or comparing dissimilar policies. Here again, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Insurance companies are prohibited from doing unfair comparisons, but agents will sometimes do their own comparisons without the company’s knowledge. Of course, you can always just ask the other company in the comparison if the comparison is fair and accurate and ask them for their own comparison.
  9. Making disparaging comments about other companies or their products. This is a red flag. Be very wary of agents or companies that engage in this practice. They are probably hiding some deficiencies in their own products. Do you want to expend a lot of energy trying to figure out what those deficiencies are? Better to just find another agent or insurer.
  10. Not including the name of the insurer in the ad. This is an unacceptable practice. An agent is more likely to do this than an insurance company. The company would like you to know who they are. On the other hand, the agent might be playing fast and loose, just trying to get your attention, possibly pulling a bait and switch – get you in the office, then tell you what he really has available. Not putting the name of the insurer in the ad gives him plenty of flexibility. Stay away!
  11. Claiming an offer is a special offer when, in fact, a similar "special offer" is provided quite regularly. This is not particularly uncommon - insurers offering open enrollment or something similar with less stringent than normal underwriting, but actually making the same offer every 4 to 6 months. It is kind of "special,’ but not very. It is a regular practice. It should at a minimum put you on your guard with regard to the honesty and integrity of the company.
  12. Making untrue or misleading statements about the financial condition and/or good standing of an insurer. Lies are lies. If you are able to determine that an insurer or agent is not telling the truth about the financial condition of the insurer, stay away from them. That won’t be the only thing they are untruthful about.