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N.C. Attorney General: Watch Out for Scams as Key Provisions in Health Care Reform Begin Oct. 1

Sept. 18, 2013. Key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are set to start Oct. 1, giving more consumers access to health insurance coverage. Unfortunately, con artists are likely to use the changes to pitch new scams, Attorney General Roy Cooper warned recently.

“Scammers are very good at taking the latest hot topic and turning it into a chance to rip you off, and we expect to see this with health care reform,” Cooper said.  “Keep up your guard and don’t let the scammers keep you from getting access to quality health insurance.”

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division is watching closely for several scams that are likely to emerge in coming weeks, including:

  • Scammers using the U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, as an excuse to call or email you and request your personal information. (We issued an alert last year about the possibility of such scams.)
  • Attempts to sell people phony insurance plans such as medical discount plans, which are not really health insurance but simply make you eligible for discounts from participating doctors, dentists, hospitals and pharmacies.
  • Impersonating official ACA navigators to try to steal your personal information or money.

Consumers are encouraged to report potential scams to Cooper’s office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or by filing a consumer complaint form online at ncdoj.gov.
While no such scams have been reported to the Attorney General’s Office by consumers in North Carolina yet, the Federal Trade Commission has reported getting complaints about callers pretending to be with Medicare.  The callers request personal information, claiming to need it if the consumer wants to continue to be eligible for Medicare—even though the ACA doesn’t put Medicare eligibility or benefits at risk.
In other states, people have also reported getting calls from insurance companies trying to pressure consumers into making a quick decision on a health care plan, threatening them with higher prices if they wait until after October 1 to purchase insurance.  Consumers will still be able to shop for traditional health insurance policies directly from insurance companies after October 1, when they’ll also be able to start shopping for coverage via the Health Insurance Marketplace set up under the ACA.
To avoid scams related to ACA implementation: 

If someone contacts you and asks you to give personal information such as your Social Security Number or bank account number in order to get benefits under the ACA or Obamacare, don’t do it.  No legitimate government agency or company will call, email or text you for this information.

Be skeptical of anyone who offers to help you understand the ACA if you pay them first.

If someone claims to be an official ACA navigator, don’t just take their word for it.  Ask for their credentials and then do your own research to determine if they are legitimate.    

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that their company is the only place you can buy health insurance that complies with the law.

Don’t do business with anyone who threatens you or tries to intimidate you.    

Before you purchase a new health insurance policy, make sure you ask for and read the details of the plan carefully.  Avoid so-called “discount health plans” that aren’t really insurance coverage and may leave you without the coverage you need. 

“Your personal information, your money and your health are all precious to you.  Don’t fall for a scam that could put them at risk,” Cooper warned.