How Medicare Advantage is being advertised on TV

More than 85 percent of the nearly 650,000 Medicare TV ad airings over a nine-week stretch during the 2023 open enrollment period were for Medicare Advantage, according to a Sept. 20 report from KFF.

KFF analyzed ad data compiled by the Wesleyan Media Project that was obtained from Vivvix, a data analytics and consulting firm, and coded by the Wesleyan Media Project in collaboration with KFF, according to the report. The data set included all English-language TV ads that aired across national and local markets on broadcast television or national cable between Oct. 1 and Dec. 7, 2022. 

Five things to know:

1. The vast majority of Medicare Advantage ads boasted low costs and extra benefits, but only 4 percent mentioned quality star ratings. 

2. There were more than 9,500 Medicare TV ad airings per day over the nine-week period. Most aired on local media markets. Most ads were sponsored by health insurers, but about 20 percent were sponsored by brokers or other third-party entities, including marketing firms. 

3. More than a quarter of Medicare Advantage ads showed images of a government-issued Medicare card, and 16 percent asked viewers to call a number other than the official 1-800-Medicare hotline. These are practices that CMS has flagged as potentially misleading. 

4. Brokers and other third-party entities used celebrity endorsements to promote Medicare Advantage 55 percent of the time, compared to 3 percent of airings sponsored by insurers. 

5. CMS has put new policies in place to crack down on deceptive Medicare advantage TV advertising.  

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