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Seniors Warned to be Cautious Through March 31 Open Enrollment Period

The license of a Broome County insurance agent has been revoked because he illegally pressured senior citizens into buying Medicare Advantage insurance plans, New York State Insurance Superintendent Eric R. Dinallo announced today.

Jeffrey D. Leggett, 51, of 804 Country Club Rd., Vestal, was barred from selling insurance after admitting he engaged in high-pressure sales tactics that included door-to-door sales solicitations. Formerly employed by Sylvan James Associates, an insurance agency in Rome, Leggett also admitted offering $25 cash rewards for referrals of prospective Medicare Supplemental purchasers. Both practices are prohibited by law.

“The Insurance Department’s Senior Protection Unit is committed to protecting senior citizens who may be vulnerable to deceptive sales practices. We will target any unscrupulous sales people who think they can make a quick sale by engaging in unfair sales tactics aimed at seniors,” Superintendent Dinallo said.

Superintendent Dinallo said seniors should be particularly cautious of high-pressure or misleading sales practices at this time of year. Seniors are eligible to change between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans during the open enrollment period which runs through March 31.

“Seniors who change their Medicare coverage are locked into that decision until the next open enrollment period. They should be very careful and make certain that any changes in their coverage are beneficial and suitable for their individual needs. For example, seniors should contact their health care providers prior to enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan to make sure they will accept the plan," the Superintendent said.

The Insurance Department revoked Leggett’s license to sell as an agent – and denied an application he had filed to sell as an insurance broker -- after receiving numerous complaints. The complaints originated from Binghamton area senior citizens and a local group, the Broome County Action for Older Persons, an organization that offers insurance counseling and assistance to seniors.

Leggett engaged in illegal solicitations between November 2006 and May 2007 when he went door-to-door ostensibly trying to sell Medicare Supplemental policies. Once inside homes, he would suggest individuals make appointments for a short time – virtually seconds -- later. He would then go to his car, retrieve information and go back into homes to conduct Medicare Advantage sales pitches.

It is illegal for insurance agents or brokers to solicit Medicare Advantages sales without making prior appointments with potential customers. Designed to prevent predatory sales practices, prior appointments are required so seniors can better understand their choices and perhaps have a family member or friend present before making a decision.

Under the terms of his license revocation, Leggett is prohibited from selling insurance in New York State.

The revocation of Leggett’s license is the second time in less than a year that the Department has taken action in connection with misleading insurance sales involving senior citizens. In May, a Warren County insurance agency was fined for targeting elderly residents.

In September, Superintendent Dinallo announced the formation of a special unit to provide support and protection to senior citizens dealing with insurance issues. The Senior Protection Unit is engaged in numerous activities designed to protect senior citizens, including working closely with the New York State Office for the Aging and other senior citizen-focused organizations to educate consumers.

Seniors are encouraged to contact their local New York State Office for the Aging site for assistance in making Medicare-related insurance decisions, the Superintendent said. He said seniors should also feel free to contact the Insurance Department toll-free at 1-800-342-3736 for advice on insurance issues or to report suspicious sales or marketing activities.


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