As mentioned earlier this week, the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period ends March 31, 2014. As with any new, large-scale program, fraudsters and identity thieves may try to take advantage of consumers who may be unfamiliar with the specifics of the program. Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) published a press release on Tuesday warning of criminals who may be out to make a quick buck.
Since the enrollment period began in October of last year, state agencies have been working together to identify fraudulent schemes and protect consumers. The biggest worries are telemarketers and fraudulent websites.
Does this mean you should avoid all potential help? No. But you should take precautions when you shop for a health plan. OCI recommends these tips:
Check with OCI. The best way to protect yourself from insurance fraud is to research the agent and company you're considering. Don’t write a check, sign a contract or give out personal information unless you know for sure that the agent and company are reputable. If there’s any question, contact OCI and confirm that the agent and company are licensed to write insurance in Wisconsin. OCI's contact information is:
Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance
Phone: 608-266-3585, Madison
Verify the legitimacy of websites. Search engines may lead you to fraudulent sites if you’re not careful. You should type the name of the website you want into your browser window rather than merely searching for information about the Affordable Care Act. The official site is www.healthcare.gov. Other federal and state governmental websites provide links to legitimate sites related to the ACA.
Keep good records. Keep a record of everyone who assists you, for whom they work, their telephone number, address, email address and website.
Think before signing. Don't sign anything you don't fully understand.
Be suspicious. Are you being asked to transact business in an unusual way—for example by using a money order or by buying a money card? Stop, call OCI, and confirm. Also note that insurance discount cards are not the same as insurance.
Don't give in to high-pressure tactics. Threats, limited-time offers or misinformation about Medicare are red flags. You cannot go to jail for failing to enroll in the Affordable Care Act. If you are on Medicare, you do not need to enroll for an ACA health plan or re-apply for Medicare.
The enrollment period will end soon, but don’t let it rush you so much that you make bad decisions when you’re shopping. Use the official websites and make sure you know who you are talking to when you buy a health plan.