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Scammers prey on health reform misinformation

Crooks are trying to sell phony policies by telling people the new law requires they buy insurance now.

By Karen Datko Apr 13, 2010 2:38PM

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Scammers often follow the news headlines, crafting their schemes around real events to make them seem more plausible.


For example, after Congress passed financial bailouts for big companies, scammers tried to convince ordinary Americans they too could qualify for money from the government. People who had not followed the news closely were easy prey.


Now that Congress has passed health care reform, consumers are being warned about scammers trying to convince Americans the new law requires them to buy health insurance immediately. Actually, the law does require all Americans to be insured, but the mandate does not begin until 2014. 

Last week U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to state attorneys general nationwide warning that HHS has received reports of scammers going door-to-door selling phony insurance policies and urging people to obtain coverage during a nonexistent "limited enrollment" period they falsely claim the new law created. Sebelius' letter urges state authorities to investigate any such scams if they surface.


Too early to buy 'qualifying' policies

The new federal health care law contains a mandate that individuals who don't already have health coverage must purchase insurance from a private company starting in 2014. That is when states will be required to start operating insurance exchanges where insurance companies will offer health policies that uninsured individuals can purchase.

Also, not every health insurance plan will qualify under the new legislation. A decision on which policies will and won't qualify will be made between now and 2014, so there is no way a company could sell policies now and guarantee they would meet the government mandate.

In Indiana, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said his office will investigate scams and assist anyone who has received such unsolicited sales offers. Beyond violating Indiana's own state insurance regulations, phony health insurance offers could violate Indiana's law in other ways, especially if they call consumers on the do-not-call list, or employ robo-callers.

In most states, a company must be licensed to sell health insurance in that state.


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