Scammers Lurk Amid Obamacare HIX Confusion

By  //  September 22, 2013

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ABOVE VIDEO: FOX Business Network’s Charles Payne addresses the real threat of con-artist thieves taking advantage of Obamacare consumer confusion through scams to sell bogus policies and capture personal information. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: With 2,600 pages of original legislation and now over 17,000 pages of “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 scams related to the health insurance exchanges (HIX) across the nation.

We reported in an April article that polls showed 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 and, as unwitting consumers start to shop the HIXs, are targeting the capture of personal information.

PPACA-related scams, which are becoming 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 said in a statement, noting that the ACA’s complexity adds a dangerous twist to regular insurance scams.

Greisman cautions individuals to be very skeptical and not to 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.”

An alert from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of Health and Human Services says, “Don’t be a victim of consumer fraud in the health insurance marketplace,” and to beware of “people  asking for money to enroll you in Marketplace or Obamacare insurance” and “high-pressure visits, mail solicitations, e-mails and phone calls from people who claim to work for the government,” among other things.

In a consumer fraud alert, the OIG offers examples of what to watch out for, and directs consumers to call the Health Insurance Marketplace consumer call center at 1-800-318-2596 if  fraud or a scam is suspected.

In the HealthLeaders Media article excerpted below, John Commins chronicles a few of the most common scams identified by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

HEALTHLEADERS MEDIA–As a key deadline nears, “Obamacare” fraudsters, under the guise of helping with enrollment in health insurance exchanges, are trying to dupe unwitting consumers into giving up personal information.

As states and the federal government scramble to meet a fast-approaching deadline to establish health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, scammers are hoping to cash in on consumer confusion about the plans, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns.

The complexity of Obamacare has spawned a plethora of associated scams in which the scammers use people’s uncertainty to try to get them to reveal personal information.
The complexity of Obamacare has spawned a plethora of associated scams in which the scammers use people’s uncertainty to try to get them to reveal personal information.

“There are folks taking advantage because they know people are hearing blurbs on TV and radio,” says Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, chair of the NAIC’s Health Insurance and Managed Care Committee.

“Consumers are not paying a whole lot of attention to it, but just enough where somebody comes along and says ‘you’ve heard about this new health insurance. I am here to make sure you get signed up.’ Obviously there is no phone solicitation that is going to occur.”

Open enrollment in the new marketplaces begins Oct. 1, but bogus websites that claim to be part of the exchanges have been sprouting online for more than a year. Oftentimes the scammers are looking to sell phony policies or obtain personal information from unwitting consumers, such as Social Security/Medicare ID, credit card, or bank account numbers.

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