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Health care: Open enrollment draws scam artists

By Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney
Federal Trade Commission

It’s open season for everyone who wants to switch health coverage. As you select your health insurance plan, watch out for scams.

Whether you are on Medicare, selecting a plan through the Affordable Care Act, or have private insurance, here are some tips to help you more safely navigate the open enrollment season. 

Medicare

A variety of scams take advantage of Medicare recipients. Here are a few: 

  • An “official Medicare agent” knocks on your door selling Medicare insurance that can save you money. Stop. It’s a scam. There are no Medicare sales representatives. It’s probably someone who wants to use your information to commit fraud or identity theft.
  • Someone calls and says you must join their prescription plan or else you’ll lose your Medicare coverage. Don’t believe it. The Medicare prescription drug plan - also known as Part D - is voluntary. 
  • Someone calls claiming that you need to give your Medicare number in order for you to keep your Medicare coverage under the ACA. It’s a scam. Don’t give your personal information over the phone. If you need help with Medicare, call 800-MEDICARE or go to medicare.gov.

Affordable Care Act

If you are shopping in the Health Insurance Marketplace, only shop at HealthCare.gov. People who try to sign you up elsewhere may be scammers.

If you’re overwhelmed, you can find free official helpers at HealthCare.gov. Official helpers will never ask for money or try to sell you a particular plan. 

Another important tip: The government will not call to sell you health insurance. And, no one from the government will ask you to verify your Social Security number or bank information over the phone.

Private insurance

If you’re looking for health insurance, make sure that’s what you’re buying. Be on the lookout for medical discount plans.

They’re not the same as health insurance, even though they sometimes pretend to be. Many of these plans are scams that don’t deliver on the services promised. Others are just a way for identity thieves to get your personal information.

Your state insurance commissioner’s office can tell you if a plan isn’t insurance and whether the seller is licensed in your state.

Report health care scams

If you think you may be a victim of a health care scam, report it to the FTC. If the scam is Medicare-related, report it at medicare.gov.

If you gave out personal information, then call your banks, credit card providers, health insurance company, and credit reporting agencies immediately. The FTC’s website has more information on health care scams and medical identity theft.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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