New York, NY – July 5, 2023 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that Tiburon Insurance Services modify or discontinue certain savings and benefits claims for The Medicare Helpline, the company’s Medicare Advantage offering.
Through its routine monitoring program, NAD challenged claims regarding Medicare Advantage plans offered by Tiburon to consumers, with claims including:
- “Save up to $1748 per year.”
- “Save more than $1000 per year.”
- “No Co-Pays. No Deductibles. No Monthly Premiums.”
Tiburon, operating under The Medicare Helpline, offers Medicare Advantage plans to consumers, which are private insurance plans offered by Medicare-approved private companies. Although Medicare Advantage plans may offer greater benefits than Medicare, consumers may also be subjected to greater restrictions, such as limitations on in-network healthcare providers and cost variations. Participants in Medicare Advantage programs may or may not save money depending on their personal needs and selected plan.
No Fees Claims
The challenged commercials generally promised various savings and additional benefits such as free hearing aids, eyeglasses, prescription delivery, gym memberships, rides to medical appointments, and more, all without additional cost. For example, one commercial states, “You could be eligible for a Medicare Advantage Plan with no co-pays, no deductibles, and no monthly premiums. That’s no, as in zero!” However, several long disclaimers in tiny print reveal that there may be significant limitations, that projected savings may not be realized, that there are required co-payments, and that other restrictions may apply.
NAD found that the challenged commercials convey an unqualified message that consumers would receive savings and benefits without material limitations. Further, NAD noted that the numerous written disclosures contain important, material information. However, the disclosures were illegible because they were compressed within a large block of text in tiny font.
In addition, NAD concluded that while the main claim boldly states that there are no copayments, no premiums, and no deductibles, the disclosure states exactly the opposite. It is well-established that a disclosure cannot contradict the main message of a claim.
For these reasons, NAD recommended that Tiburon:
- Discontinue the claim that there are no copayments, premiums, and deductibles as well as the claim that consumers could obtain benefits and savings without material limitations or restrictions;
- Or in the alternative, modify the claim to clearly and conspicuously disclose within the body of the main claim itself that only some consumers may be eligible for a plan without copayments, premiums, and deductibles and many of the benefits are subject to material limitations and restrictions.
Based on the evidence in the record, NAD concluded that Tiburon cannot support the “save up to $1748 per year” or “you may be eligible to save over $1748 per year” claims and recommended that they be discontinued.
Official Helpline Claim
NAD considered whether consumers could mistake Tiburon to be the official government helpline for Medicare despite small print disclosures stating that The Medicare Helpline is “A non-government website powered by Tiburon” and that “The Medicare Helpline is not affiliated with or acting on behalf of any government agency or program.”
NAD determined that various elements of the commercial contribute to the misleading message that may be conveyed by the name “Medicare Helpline.” Because these elements reasonably convey the message that Tiburon is an official government entity and the disclosures are ineffective, NAD recommended that Tiburon clearly and conspicuously disclose that it is not affiliated with an official government entity and discontinue any context that conveys the message that it is a government entity.
Sales Agent Claim
The voiceover in the commercials encourage consumers to call The Medicare Helpline to discuss Medicare Advantage eligibility. NAD found this language communicated that consumers will be able to speak to a helpline representative about Medicare Advantage. However, a disclosure informs consumers that in lieu of a licensed insurance agent answering, the call may be “sold” to another insurance agent who may not offer Medicare Advantage at all.
Because this disclosure contradicts the main claim, NAD recommended that Tiburon modify its advertising to avoid conveying a misleading message about the calls to its sales agents.
NAD noted that during the proceeding, Tiburon voluntarily agreed to permanently discontinue the “Save more than $1,000 per year” claim. Therefore, this claim was not reviewed on the merits.
In its advertiser statement, Tiburon stated that it “supports the NAD regulatory process and will voluntarily comply with NAD’s recommendation.”
This shall not be used for advertising or promotional purposes.
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About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.