Beware of Obamacare scammers
As open enrollment in health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) begins Oct. 1, state regulators and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) warn consumers about scammers posing as insurance agents or government representatives.
The deception, they explain, usually comes in two ways: bogus websites that claim to be part of the exchanges or unsolicited calls from crooks who say they're tied to the ACA, both asking for personal information such as social security numbers and credit card details.
"Another common ploy involves unsolicited calls from scammers who claim to have your new 'Obamacare' insurance card -- they just need to get some information before they can send it to you," says the NAIC in a statement.
Regulators and the NAIC advise watching for these "red flags":
- You're told the premium offer is only good for a limited time. Nope. Actually, enrollment in the exchanges will be open from Oct. 1 to March 31, and rates for plans in the exchanges will have been approved for the entire enrollment period.
- You're told you could go to jail for not having health insurance. Wrong. Actually, starting in 2014, nearly everyone will be required to have health insurance, but you won't face jail time if you don't buy coverage. However, those who remain uninsured and do not qualify for any exemptions will face a penalty of $95 (for each adult) or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.
- You get an unsolicited phone call or email from someone trying to sell insurance. Actually, the federal government and state insurance departments will not be contacting consumers to sell them health coverage.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.