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Engler: Seniors need protection from pushy sales tactics

Before the Missouri Senate perfected Senate Bill (SB) 1283 this week, Sen. Kevin Engler, R – Farmington, made sure it included an amendment designed to help protect senior citizens from overzealous insurance agents.

Engler’s amendment was approved as part of the Missouri Health Transformation Act. SB 1283, which provides health insurance to thousands of Missourians who cannot otherwise afford it, includes sections that deal with preventive health services, the study of health-related issues and tax credits in return for making homes more accessible for the disabled. Also among the provisions of the bill are the establishment of health promotion standards for state buildings, creation of the Missouri Health Cabinet, permission for the Commissioner of Administration to deduct cafeteria plan administrative fees from the employee’s compensation warrant (for those who elect to participate), and establishment of optional immunization for the human papillomavirus (HPV) for girls entering sixth grade.

Engler’s amendment concerns the sales practices of agents who sell Medicare replacement insurance plans. These plans are part of the Medicare system, and often provide lower co-payments compared to original Medicare plans. However, not all Medicare physicians are covered under the plans.

That was the problem for most of the people who contacted Engler and asked for his help. They told Engler they had been pressured by agents into signing up for the insurance on the spot. The agents led them to believe that their physicians were covered in the new plan, the citizens told Engler.

After switching to the private insurance provider, however, the citizens found out that their physicians were not part of their new policy.

“Insurance agents are selling these plans in a legitimate way, but the problem is that many of these consumers are finding that their personal doctors aren’t covered,” Engler said. “This would make sure that consumers have the time and the information to make sure this decision is right for them.”

The amendment requires a two-day waiting period from the time a Medicare patient is approached and when they actually are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. That gives the citizen time to check with their physicians before making the change. The agent also would have to give the consumer a disclosure statement explaining that these plans are not supplement plans; advise the applicants to check with their health care providers; provide a list of health care providers in the area who are covered by the plan; and recommend that the applicant contact either a trusted friend, family member, or the state before buying a health insurance assistance program.

“Seniors can benefit from these plans, but they aren’t for everybody,” Engler added. “They can be extremely dangerous in rural areas where providers are already few and far between and some of them are not covered by these plans.”

The bill is scheduled for a roll call vote on Monday regarding passage of the bill.

This week, the Senate passed two other bills that will be voted on Monday. Engler’s SB 1181, promotes energy efficiency and energy conservation. It requires the Missouri Energy Task Force to meet each year to review progress made toward meeting the recommendations made in its final report in 2006. The Task Force was charged with finding ways to lessen Missouri’s dependence on oil and other fossil fuels, providing assistance for low income Missourians who need assistance paying winter heating bills, promoting new opportunities for the use of renewable fuels, and encouraging Missouri utilities to develop and operate electric power generation resources that will result in low-cost electricity for the future.

SB 1245 would close a loophole in Missouri’s election law that prohibits those convicted of a felony in the state from running for or holding a public office. Current regulations do not address those convicted of a felony in another state. SB 1245 would clarify that.

Also this week, the Senate’s version of the budget went back to the House of Representatives. In Missouri, budget bills originate in the House and after being approved, they are sent to the Senate, which then passes its own version of the bills.

Although the House has the option of accepting the Senate version, that rarely happens on budget bills, said Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence. Typically, teams of five senators and five representatives meet to negotiate and draft final versions of the bills.

“Six of the 10 negotiators must agree for a compromise to be accepted,” Kuessner explained. “The compromise bills then are returned to the House and Senate for final approval. If one or both chambers reject the deal, the negotiating process begins anew.”

This year’s budget involves nearly $23 billion in taxpayer money, he added. The current legislative session formally ends on May 16.

Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at

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