Marketing and Communication Materials
Agents create and use a variety of materials to advertise that they sell Medicare products such as Medicare Advantage and Part D products. These include, but are not limited to, letters, postcards, posters, brochures, scripts, radio and television ads, billboards, banners, signs, yellow page ads, church bulletin ads, social media content and websites.
CMS defines “communications” and “marketing” in the CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines. Agents need to be aware of the differences between the two terms. All marketing materials need to be filed and approved by CMS. Agent created communications to members do not need CMS approval.
Any agent created communication must follow the CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines. See below for some direction in this area.
Guidance on Communications to Members
Branded vs. Generic Materials
- Branded material — materials that contain carrier and/or product information (e.g., plan name, plan costs/benefits). Must be CMS and/or carrier approved.
- Generic material — self-created communication materials that are free of any plan or product information, brands or carrier logos (e.g., agent’s flyer for his/her business). Does not need to be CMS approved, but must comply with CMS guidelines.
Note: Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan carriers may allow the use of their logo or name in certain circumstances such as on websites, but agents must get carrier approval first.
- “Not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program.” — should be on all generic communication materials.
- If a phone number is listed on an advertisement, it must be obvious to the consumer they will be calling an insurance agent. If not obvious, use a disclaimer like “Call 800-786-5566 to speak with one of our insurance agents today.”
- If you are trying to obtain Permission to Contact through a business reply card, there must be a statement informing the customer: 1). who will contact them and 2). by what method. Recommended statement: “By providing your name and contact information you are consenting to receive calls, text messages and/or emails from a licensed insurance agent about Medicare Plans at the number provided, and you agree such calls and/or text messages may use an auto-dialer or robocall, even if you are on a government do-not-call registry. This agreement is not a condition of enrollment.”
Prohibited Marketing Content
- Agent titles — CMS prohibits the use of the word “Medicare” and/or any language that implies additional knowledge, skill or certification above licensing requirements. Examples of what not to use: — “Medicare Specialist” or “Medicare Advisor”
- Use of government symbols — Consumer facing material cannot mimic or resemble a CMS or government agency design. Use of symbols (e.g., American flag, eagle or Medicare ID card) that may mislead or deceive the beneficiary into believing that he is interacting with a government entity is strictly prohibited.
Consumer-facing websites are held to the same regulations as any other traditional Medicare communication materials. CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines apply, as well as carrier rules. All webpages should be kept generic, should not display any plan or benefit information and should not use carrier logos or names without prior carrier approval. If you have additional questions about website advertising, don’t hesitate to contact the SMS Compliance Team. Electronic business reply cards must adhere to the same CMS regulations as traditional paper business reply cards.
A social media page is a marketing channel much like a website page. Most carriers require that the agent set up a business page on social media rather than use their personal page. Agents CAN list the name and address of their business and indicate the type of products offered (e.g., Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug Plans, Medicare Supplement insurance plans, etc.) offered. Agents still have to be otherwise compliant with CMS rules. (Examples of this would be to clearly identify to the Medicare member that you are a licensed insurance agent/broker, and include the recommended disclaimer: “Not connected with or endorsed by the United States government or the federal Medicare program.”). Agents should not post or link to any plan sponsor, carrier brand/logo or plan or product names, or any branded marketing materials via social media sites because this would be considered marketing and require filing with CMS.
There are a few other limitations to keep in mind regarding unsolicited contact:
- CMS guidelines state that if an individual comments, likes or follows on social media, this does not constitute agreement to receive any communications. So a consumer liking or commenting on a Facebook page does not give the agent permission to contact.
- Agents must not initiate contact with potential clients with unsolicited messages through social media such as Facebook Messenger.
- Don’t discuss plan benefits or any cost sharing/other details of the plan or engage in discussion about a member’s personal health information.
Agents are required to report social media pages to the MA-PD/Part D carriers, akin to reporting their other websites.
Business Cards: Tips
- May be governed by state law
- If you are listing carrier names or logos, you need carrier approval, and response time is often long and tough to get
- Identify yourself as an insurance agent or independent insurance agent
- Do not give the impression that you are connected, endorsed or accredited by the state or federal government
- If you post your business card displaying it like an ad in the newspaper or use it as an advertising piece then CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing guidelines do apply. The business card may be attached, with a single piece of tape or a single staple to CMS approved marketing pieces.
- Every agent in California needs to print their license number on their business cards. The word, “insurance” needs to be affixed or printed on all business cards
***The SMS Compliance Team is happy to review any agent created communication materials and/or act as a conduit to submit them to the carrier for review and use. Send inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org**