Complexity Of Obamacare Spawns Personal Info Scams
By Jenny Gold, Staff Writer, Kaiser Health News // April 23, 2013
Seniors Often Target Of The Con
EDITOR’S NOTE: With 2,600 pages of original legislation and now over 15,000 pages of associated “regulations and associated guidance,” it is no surprise that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA/Obamamcare) has sparked widespread public confusion, which has spawned an increase in insurance scams across the nation, many of which target seniors, Jenny Gold reports in the excerpted article below for Kaiser Health News.
According to the report, which was produced in collaboration with National Public Radio, seniors are often the targets of insurance scams, primarily because they are more likely to be home and answer the phone and because they often have retirement savings that the scamming reprobates hope to tap into. However, these scams are not exclusive to seniors. In fact, the federal government received nearly 83,000 complaints of “imposter scams” involving a cross section of demographic groups last year, up 12% from 2011.
In recent polls, over 50% of Americans indicate they are not clear on many aspects of the PPACA and say they do not understand how the health reform law will affect them. By leveraging the public’s misunderstanding of Obamacare’s plethora of complex rules and regulations, medical fraudsters are offering bogus coverage. “Crooks are playing on that confusion,” said James Quiggle, communications director at the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, and added, “Confusion is a crook’s best friend.”
PPACA-related scams, which are expected to become more frequent as implementation of Obamacare ramps up, have triggered a high level of vigilance in identifying and diligently working to take down these fraudulent schemes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Lois Greisman, who runs the division of marketing practices at the FTC, says she is not surprised that Obamacare is the scammers’ next big target. “Fraudsters are as attuned to what’s going on in the news as everybody else,” she says, noting that the ACA’s complexity adds a dangerous twist to regular insurance scams.
Greisman cautions individuals to be very skeptical and do not take phone calls, or answer emails or unsolicited text messages “from out of the blue from anyone who’s offering to help you navigate the new health market.”
KAISER HEALTH NEWS—One recent morning, 86-year-old Evelyne Lois Such was sitting at her kitchen table in Denver when the phone rang. She didn’t recognize the phone number or the deep voice on the other end of the line. “He asked if I was a senior, and I said yes, and he said we are sending out all new Medicare cards and I want to make sure I have all of your statistics correct,” Such recounts.
At first, the caller didn’t seem too fishy; he started by running through her address and phone number, just to make sure they were right. But then he read off a series of numbers and asked if it was her bank routing number. “I didn’t know really at the time whether it was or not, but I just said no. He said, well could you give it to me so I’ll have it correctly, and I said, well I’m not so sure about that. And he started to say something and I hung up.”
When the scammer tried calling her a second time, she hung up immediately, scribbled down the number from her caller ID and dialed Medicare to report the scam.
“I kind of thought it was funny at first, and then I thought, you know, how dare they?” says Such. “There are some seniors who aren’t well and don’t think as well as they used to, and it just made me angry that they would be victimized like this.”
Law enforcement agencies are reporting an increase in these sorts of health insurance scams across the country. Many of the fraudsters seem to be preying on the public’s confusion over the massive changes taking place in the nation’s health care system.
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