Every new piece of legislation dealing with taxes or health care brings out the scam artists seeking to take advantage of the unwary. This is especially true of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.
Ever since the law was passed in 2010, the scammers have been out in force trying to sell bogus insurance policies and seeking sensitive personal information that is "required" to receive a new Medicare card or an Obamacare card, which does not exist!
When you add the confusion that seems to be generally present throughout the country with the rollout of the ACA on October 1, the opportunities for scammers seems unlimited as millions of uninsured Americans begin shopping for health insurance through state-run health insurance exchanges or the federal government. And misinformation spread by members of Congress has not helped the situation.
According to those surveyed in a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, about half of the people knew "nothing at all" about their state's plans to create an exchange and two-thirds of uninsured Americans didn't understand how the new law affects them. About one-fifth thought the ACA had been repealed by Congress or overturned by the Supreme Court. And, generally, many people don't realize that Obamacare, which many people have come to fear, is the Affordable Care Act, which they like, and is called by another name on the states' exchanges.
You should be aware that scammers have already established fake websites to "sell" ACA insurance and everything from robocalls to fax, email and phone calls from fake government representatives are currently in play to steal your money and/or your identity. Here are some of the ways to protect yourself while taking advantage of legitimate health care opportunities:
- First and foremost, educate yourself as much as possible about the ACA through real government websites, such as www.healthcare.gov.
- If you are on Medicare, you don't need a new card or or additional insurance. You can change your Medicare plan and prescription coverage from October 15 to December 7, the open enrollment period, but no one from the government or Medicare will contact you — and certainly will not ask for your financial information or Social Security number.
- If you get health insurance at work, your employer should notify you about any changes that may occur. People with private insurance should contact their providers if they have questions.
- Most people who need insurance will shop the exchanges on the federal or state websites. Trained "navigators" have been hired and you can contact them at the website above or on the federal government's hotline, 800-318-2596 (TTY 855-889-3425). Although some states have hired advertisers and translators to help educate the uninsured about the new benefits, their role is education, not to sell policies.
- If you are contacted about "limited-time offers" or "act now or loose your benefits" ploys, you are dealing with scammers who use these scare and rush tactics to push you into action.
Remember, October 1 is just the opening of the enrollment period, which ends March 31, 2014. And the insurance you select will not take effect until January 1, 2014, so you have plenty of time to explore your options and make the right selection.