It’s no surprise, since scams tend to follow the headlines; people need to be on alert!
Over the past months, state and federal authorities have reported a rising number of consumer complaints linked to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ranging from deceptive sales practices to identity theft. It’s no surprise, since scams tend to follow the headlines. “Whenever there’s something big in the news we see scam artist trying to use it to defraud consumers of their money,” says Tracey Thomas, a representative from the Federal Trade Commission. ACA scams especially target the elderly. But even if you’re older, that doesn’t mean you’re gullible. You can get scammed at any age. Scammers generally come to pray on the lack of clarity and information about what the healthcare law actually covers, making statements such as “recipients may qualify for cheaper auto insurance(The ACA does not affect auto coverage),” and thereby defrauding consumers, so all consumers need to be careful, warns Thomas Fraudsters. These rip-off experts all have one thing in common: They are trying to deceive you so that you will give them your sensitive personal information. Their pitches usually come with a telephone call, a knock at the door or perhaps an official-sounding email. The more you know about the scams that are out there, the less likely you are to be a victim.
“I will help you.” – Some con artists are quoting fees as high as $100 to “help” people navigate the insurance landscape. You should know that government-trained navigators and aids are available to help at no cost. You can find a list of helpers in your area at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov. You can search by city and state or Zip code to see a list of local organizations with contact information, office hours and types of help offered.
Supplemental coverage – Under the ACA, if you are 65 or older and on Medicare, you don’t need to buy supplemental coverage. The ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace won’t affect your Medicare choices, and your benefits won’t be changing. Regardless of this fact, unscrupulous marketers are pushing expensive add-on policies to seniors by falsely claiming that such coverage is required. If you have questions about Medicare coverage or want to get clarity, call 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227) or visit www.medicare.gov.
Medicare or “Obamacare” cards – The ACA doesn’t say you need a new Medicare card or another health insurance card, or that you’ll lose Medicare coverage. And there’s no such thing as an “Obamacare card.”
“I’m from the government.” – The government will not visit, call, text or email you about your health insurance, no one from the government will ask you to verify your Social Security number or bank information. Some government agencies might send you a letter, but they will never ask you to wire them money or give them your credit card number.
Official-looking websites – Beware of fake websites designed to mirror state healthcare exchanges or the official HealthCare.gov website. After a visit to a look-alike website, users may be inundated with pitches from private insurance agents unaffiliated with the government. The official website of the Health Insurance Marketplace, www.healthcare.gov, contains links to every state exchange and can help you avoid copycat and other phony websites.
Discount plans – Medical discount plans are not health insurance. Scammers may say that a discount plan will save you money and that it meets the minimum coverage required under the ACA so you won’t have to pay a penalty or look at other plans. Most medical discount plans claim to offer reduced prices from doctors and pharmacies, and on procedures. Many of these plans don’t deliver on their promises. Others are attempts to get your personal or financial information, so the scammer can steal your identity.