by Kim Komando
The Affordable Care Act is big news lately and only going to get bigger. The October 1 start date is coming up fast. As usual, I’m not going to comment on any of the politics involved. But I think both sides will admit that the whole thing is confusing for the average person. No one is quite sure how the act will affect their current health plans and payments.
As with any moment of confusion, scammers are just waiting to jump in. They’ve got some new scams cooked up to scare and trick you. The amount of scams on this subject is already on the rise. You need to know what they are before the floodgates really open. Be sure to share this with your friends and family so they’ll stay safe as well. Let’s start with insurance scams. One widely publicized requirement of the Affordable Care Act is that everyone needs insurance. I know some people are just going to grab whatever plan is cheapest. That’s why a scammer might call, email or even show up on your doorstep pretending to be an insurance company. They’ll promise incredibly low premiums. You’d be a fool not to sign up! Some will throw in a scare tactic. They’ll tell you that if you don’t buy right now, you’ll face fines or jail time. Sign me up quick!
Except you won’t be covered and your money will be long gone. Before you sign up with any insurance company, do your research. Run the name through Google. Make sure the company has a solid history and no fraud complaints. Even if it is a legitimate company, don’t trust unsolicited calls or emails. Contact the company directly if you’re interested in what they offer. Scammers have no problem lying about representing real companies.
As a rule, always pause and do research before making any decision like this. Trust me; the world isn’t going to end if you don’t “act now.”
Pushing you to “act now” is a big part of what scammers do. They rely on greed, fear or both.
That brings me to the next question you might hear. Do you have your “Obamacare card” yet?
Good, because there’s no such thing. However, you might get a phone call or email telling you otherwise.
The person will explain that everyone needs one starting October 1; otherwise you won’t have access to health care. Plus, you could face a fine or even jail time without one!
However, they’ll graciously offer to send you one. You just need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, current medical plan numbers and possibly a small processing fee. Sound suspicious yet?
As a side note, the official name of the health care act is the Affordable Care Act. No legitimate companies are going to call it “Obamacare” in advertising or correspondence. A similar scam you might hear deals with Medicare and Medicaid. You’ll be told that under the Affordable Care Act, you have to reapply. Otherwise your benefits will disappear!
But the person informing you of this will be happy to help if you give them your information. Of course, it isn’t true. Never give out financial or medical information over the phone or through email. That isn’t how legitimate companies work. Every company or organization that deals with medical information falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA regulates how your medical information is stored and shared. The Federal Trade Commission has similar rules for financial institutions. Have you ever gotten an email from your medical provider or bank saying you have a message? But you have to log in to your online account to read it? It sounds silly, but it’s actually good security.
Some companies don’t have the resources for this, so they do everything in person at their offices. Again, it’s annoying, but it’s good security. Be cautious about any financial company, insurance company or government agency that doesn’t work the same way. They’re probably not on the up-and-up. There is one thing that’s going to make these scams trickier. The Affordable Care Act does allow for “navigators.” Navigators are people or companies that help educate taxpayers about the Affordable Care Act and help them comply.
While this is a real thing, no one is quite sure how navigators are going to work. How are they certified? How can they contact you? How do you spot a fake navigator?
The only thing we know right now is that their services will be free. They’re being paid by a government grant, not you.
So, any “navigator” that asks for payment is a scammer. However, a clever scammer might work for “free,” but point you to shady insurance companies or other scams.
Until the government comes out with firm rules and guidelines, I would just avoid anyone claiming to be a navigator.