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Beware Health Insurance Plan Changes

Note to Readers: Although this story revolves around changes to particular Medicare health insurance plans, the lesson it offers is universal. During open enrollment, don’t just automatically renew your old plan. Look for changes your insurer is implementing in the coming year in the Annual Notice of Changes and see if a different plan may better suit your needs.

Here’s an example of a nasty change by Arkansas BlueMedicare. Their Premier Choice advantage plan used to provide free diagnostic colonoscopies, but for 2024 they added a $275 copay.


Arkansas BlueMedicare

A very popular Medicare Part D drug plan is Wellcare Value Script (PDP). This is optional coverage for those with original Medicare whether or not you also have a supplement (medigap) plan. (Original Medicare does not cover drugs so many seniors buy a separate drug plan called Part D.)

A reason it is so popular is that it tends to be the cheapest plan in some states. For 2024, for example, in Massachusetts, Maine and perhaps elsewhere, the monthly premium is only 50 cents! In some other states it is zero!

It does have the maximum allowable deductible — $545 — but beneficially it does not apply to tier 1 or 2 drugs. Tier 1 has no copays, and tier 2 is only $5 or $15 for 30 or 90 days, respectively. But there is a big change for tier 3 drugs.


Wellcare Value Script

For 2023, there was a flat $47 or $44 copay for tier 3 drugs. That means whatever the full cost, you only had to pay forty-something dollars.

But, for 2024, that changes to co-insurance. To MrConsumer, “co-insurance” is a dirty word. It is cost-sharing between you and your insurance company. They pay part of a particular bill, and you pay a certain percentage of it. For 2024, you will pay 25-percent of the full cost of drugs in the Wellcare plan for that tier. If it is an expensive drug, you could get soaked. If it is a cheap drug, you could save compared to 2023. Note that some other copays are lower for 2024 on this Wellcare plan.

Now it’s time for you to fess up.

Health Insurance Survey

When is the last time you thoroughly re-evaluated your choice(s) of health insurance?

The bottom line is EVERY YEAR you really need to check and compare the features and costs of your current plan with what various of next year’s plans offer. This goes for regular insurance plans and any of your Medicare plans — Advantage, Supplement, or Part D (drugs). Remember to also check the drug formulary for changes to what drugs are covered, in which tier they reside, and what any restrictions are.

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Boo: Chipotle Doesn’t Make Good After Halloween Promo Backfires

Many people look forward to Chipotle’s annual Halloween “Boorito” promotion where the company offers any burrito at a low, low price. Once only $3, now the discounted meal will set you back $6. It was even named Bargain of the Week in Consumer World last week.

This year, they made the promo online only and only for rewards members. Historically, it was a walk-in promotion where anyone could get the promotion if you dressed in a costume. Many a year MrConsumer donned his turkey outfit to take advantage of the offer.

Edgar at Chipotle

About 4 p.m. on Halloween, I went online to order my $6 burrito bowl (you can get twice as much food in a bowl compared to in a burrito) but could not log in. They instituted a two-factor authentication process and their system was not sending the secret six-digit code before it expired in five minutes. And then the entire site went down.
Chipotle down

I checked the Facebook and Twitter accounts, and could not find a word about the problem that continued for hours. (Business Insider found a couple of posts directing customers to just go to the restaurant to get the deal, but some reported that stores refused to honor it.) Calling the local store was no help either. They were not taking phone orders, and the recorded phone message mentioned nothing about the problem.

Eventually, I was able to log in and put the burrito bowl I wanted in my cart. At the checkout, the system refused to accept the correct promo code “boorito” and was charging full price.

After spending over two hours trying to get the advertised promotion, I used their automated chat to complain. Two days later the company responded.


I’m sorry to hear that there were some difficulties redeeming this year’s Boorito promotion. Due to extraordinary demand, we experienced intermittent technical issues on our app and website for guests placing digital orders. As a customer service gesture, I have added a free chips-and-guac offer into the rewards section of your Chipotle account.

Give me a break. The company disappointed probably tens of thousands of customers, and they have made no broad public apology nor provided a make-good offer of equivalent value to all their rewards members.

We contacted their media representatives to ask if they were going to offer something to all of them. They responded:

Due to extraordinary demand, we temporarily experienced intermittent technical issues on the app and website for guests placing digital orders on Halloween. We resolved the issue and honored the promotional offer inside our restaurants and on digital.

Of course, they never sent an email to rewards members alerting them to the problem and suggesting the in-store alternative.

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NyQuil Honey… Where’s the Honey?

With the cough and cold season approaching, NyQuil Severe Honey is being advertised on radio and TV. Listen for all the references to honey in this commercial.

In just 15 seconds, the word “honey” or a variation of it is used six times. That might give you the impression this cough remedy contains… honey.

No wonder they say it so many times. Honey is a time-honored home remedy for sore throats and coughing according to the Mayo Clinic.

Even looking at the bottles one might believe there was real honey in it because they show a big honey dipper dripping with the sweet stuff, and one version of the bottle (perhaps an older one) says it is made with real honey.


NyQuil bottles

But looking at the ingredients statement, honey is not listed as an active ingredient. And on the inactive ingredients list, all it says is “flavor” – not honey, not honey flavor, not natural honey flavor… just “flavor.”


NyQuil ingredients

So where’s the honey? We asked P&G, the maker of NyQuil. The company did not respond to our questions including how much actual honey, if any, was in the product, and whether they would modify their advertising to not give consumers the false impression that real honey and its medicinal benefits are features of this product?

We have turned over the issue to the National Advertising Division of Better Business Bureau Programs suggesting they open a case about this matter.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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