Don't Fall for These Common Obamacare Scams
As the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, begins to roll out, health insurance scams linked to the law have been proliferating. Consumer advocates fear the scams may become even more common as health insurance exchanges come online. (See also: Understanding the ACA's Health Insurance Exchange)
The Obamacare scams are many and varied. Con artists are setting up fake websites, posing as government workers or insurance agents, and contacting consumers by phone, email, text messages, and even in person.
They are selling fake insurance plans, requesting personal financial information, and seeking personal information to commit identity theft.
Government officials and consumer advocates are warning Americans about these most common Obamacare scams.
Fees for Help
Fraudsters contact potential victims by phone, email, or text message and offer to help them access the new health insurance exchanges — for a fee. Beware: They're out to collect bogus fees. They also collect bank account numbers or other sensitive financial information. (See also: Obamacare Fraud Alert)
Official helpers, called navigators, assisters, or counselors, can help you with the health insurance marketplace. But they don't charge fees or push particular plans. To find people who can help you understand your health coverage options and enroll in a plan, visit the government's local help site.
Some scammers claim they're from the government. It's a lie. No one from the government is calling people about their insurance. Government agencies may send you letters but will never ask for money or credit card numbers.
Con artists may use high-pressure tactics, saying "It's the law." They're known to threaten potential victims with penalties or even jail time if they don't sign up or buy a special insurance card.
Such penalties are not possible since the law's individual mandate, which levies a financial penalty on those who don't obtain insurance, does not take effect until 2014 and entails no jail penalty.
Bogus Medicare Cards
In this scam, criminals say you need a new Medicare card because you'll lose coverage if you don't buy a new card. They may ask for your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, too.
Actually, no one needs a new Medicare card or any other insurance card, and no one will lose insurance coverage.
Scammers try to sell medical discount plans, calling them insurance policies. They are not. Most discount plans entail club memberships claiming to offer reduced prices from doctors and other medical costs. Many don't deliver any cost savings. Others are just cons designed to collect personal information and commit identity theft. (See also: How to Prevent Identity Theft)
Insurance Agent Scams
Scammers may pose as insurance agents. They typically use high-pressure techniques, such as saying you must "act now" to get a discount or that you'll lose access to your current doctors under Medicare if you don't sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan. That's not true.
If you have Medicare, you don't have to do anything different because of Obamacare. Some insurance agents can help you with the Health Insurance Marketplace, but don't provide personal information or pay any money to someone who contacts you.
Scammers set up fake websites to collect sensitive financial information and spread malware. To trick visitors, the sites are designed to look like an official health care exchange, complete with official seal. For instance, as The Washington Post reported, the sites washingtonhealthexchange.com and mdhealthexchange.com were reported and taken down.
Steps to Take to Avoid Getting Taken
Consumer confusion about the new law creates opportunities for criminals. A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that as recently as April 2013, 4 in 10 Americans did not know that Obamacare was the law. Many thought it had been repealed by Congress or struck down by the Supreme Court.
Learn About the Law
Read Wise Bread's ongoing coverage of the ACA and health insurance in general to stay informed, or visit HealthCare.gov. In addition to learning about the law, you can shop for insurance through that website.
Keep Detailed Notes
Write down the name of anyone who assists you, who they work for, their telephone number, address, email, and website address.
Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information or someone claiming to be from the government. Better yet, report them by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
Have you been contacted by a health insurance scam artist?