Stop the Medicare “Advantage” Scam Before Medicare is Dead

Thom Hartmann
11 min readAug 5, 2022

Congress must pass a law to stop the deceptive advertising of Medicare Advantage plans. Only Medicare should be able to call itself Medicare.

Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past few years, you’ve seen the ads on TV featuring Joe Namath, Jimmy Walker, or William Shatner hawking so-called “Medicare Advantage” plans.

Medicare Advantage is not Medicare.

It’s private health insurance being offered to people over 65, with the bill paid for by Medicare. Once you get on an Advantage plan it’s very difficult to get off, and if you’ve been on for more than a year you may not be able to go back to regular Medicare with a Medigap plan at all.

It’s also one of the most effective ways that insurance companies are using to kill Medicare for All before its even birthed, since almost half of all people who think they’re on Medicare are actually on these privatized plans instead.

Nearly from its beginning, Medicare has allowed private companies to offer plans to seniors that essentially compete with it, but they were an obscure corner of the market and didn’t really take off until the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress rolled out the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

This was the GOP’s (and a few corporatist Democrats’) big chance to finally privatize Medicare, one bite at a time.

Bush’s law authorized giant insurance companies to offer for-profit health insurance to people over 65 that competes directly with Medicare and — most egregiously — it lets those companies pretend that they’re offering Medicare by using the brand name “Medicare Advantage.”

Seniors buying Medicare Advantage plans often think — even though they know they’re getting the plan through an insurance company — that they’re somehow still in Medicare or backstopped by Medicare. The reality is they’re neither.

With Medicare Advantage, they’re at the total mercy of the insurance company providing the Advantage plan. They can deny care (and frequently do), refuse to pay for tests, and even refuse to authorize or pay for surgeries and other life-saving procedures.

This is their business model, in fact, just like with regular health insurance. The more they can deny care and claims, the more profit they make.

Thom Hartmann

America’s #1 progressive talk show host & NY Times bestselling author. Thom’s writings also appear at