The national health reform law is expected to open the door for identity theft and insurance scams when millions of uninsured Americans begin enrolling in coverage this fall, officials and advocates warn.
The Federal Trade Commission said dozens of consumers have reported fraud since last summer's Supreme Court ruling upholding the law, and officials predict widespread abuse when enrollment begins in October.
One scam already making the rounds involves a caller promising to send a health care card if the person reveals personal information. There also are false enrollment websites, and at least one company has used the health reform law to promise huge savings on costs and swindle consumers into buying fake insurance.
“Fraudsters read the paper too, and where there is confusion in the marketplace, they see opportunity to make money,” said Lois Greisman, associate director of the commission. “This is, unfortunately, going to be an area where there is confusion.”
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a Washington-based nonprofit, has issued a national alert and has been working closely with the federal government and the media to get the word out, said spokesman James Quiggle.
“The sea change in how America provides health insurance has created a breeding ground for so-called Obamacare swindles,” he said.
Under health care reform, millions of Americans who lack insurance will become eligible for Medicaid and subsidized coverage through state-based marketplaces or exchanges.
Federal health officials are directing consumers to the official website — healthcare.gov. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is also warning consumers not to disclose private information in response to unsolicited calls, emails or visits and to beware of offers that seem too good to be true.
Advice from the BBB
To avoid falling for a scam related to purchase of insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the Omaha Better Business Bureau advises:
» Beware of giving personal information over the phone. Never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone over the phone or at your home unless you initiate the contact and feel confident you know with whom you are speaking. Such disclosures can put you at high risk for identity theft, check fraud, unauthorized credit card use or even unauthorized loans.
» Do your research. If you are pressured for immediate payment or for personal information by someone who claims to be with the government, hang up and call the number for a government office you know is legitimate. You can also call the Better Business Bureau at 800-649-6814 for guidance.
» Share this information with friends and family. The BBB Senior Line is a great resource to check out offers or services that are suspicious. Senior Line operators can be reached toll-free at 877-637-3334.