Possibility of fraud surrounds Affordable Care Act enrollment

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Attorney General's office and Mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau want to educate Missourians about possible scams surrounding the new federal Health Insurance Exchange plans that begin enrollment on November 15th.

"As with any new system, scam artists may prey upon consumers who are attempting to comply with the law," said Attorney General Chris Koster. "My concern is that scammers will use the insurance coverage enrollment period as an opportunity to commit fraud."

As part of the Affordable Care Act, an insurance marketplace, commonly referred to as an exchange, will provide individuals with options for private health insurance coverage to comply with the law's minimum essential coverage requirement. Consumers seeking insurance coverage through the exchange will need to provide personal information in order to determine which plans are available to them and to sign up for health insurance coverage. Better Business Bureau Director Mike Harrison warns that scammers may attempt to con people into thinking that they are enrolling in a marketplace insurance plan when they are not.

"We want Missourians to lookout for scammers trying to trick consumers with phone calls, suspicious mail or emails, or phony websites," said Harrison. 

According to the Attorney General's office, scammers could use personal information to commit financial identity theft, medical identity theft, or insurance identity theft. Financial identity theft is when a scam artist steals your information to access your accounts or to open a line of credit in your name. Medical identity theft happens when the scam artist gets medical treatment by using your information. Insurance identity theft is when someone uses your information to sign up for coverage.

In an attempt to prevent Missourians from becoming a victim of these types of identity theft, Koster and the Better Business Bureau offer the following tips:

"Beware of people asking for money to enroll you in the ‘Exchange,' or ‘Obamacare' insurance. Legitimate enrollment assisters will not ask for money and wouldn't refer to the program as ‘Obamacare'," said Harrison. 

Harrison also said to ask anyone who wants to help you enroll to verify their affiliation. In addition to a licensed insurance agent, there are two new types of licensed assistants who can also help take the steps necessary to sign up for the program: Insurance Navigators and Certified Application Counselors. 

For a list of navigators licensed by DIFP in Missouri, click here.

There are also two Missouri websites that provide legitimate information - enrollmissouri.org operated by the Missouri Hospital Association and covermissouri.org operated by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

In a statement issued by the Attorney General's office, Koster urged Missourians to only provide personal information if they have initiated the contact. The statement also instructed those applying for the program to only communicate directly with the Official Exchange:

"Unless you are using a licensed insurance agent or assistant, the only way to ensure that your personal data is not going to a scammer is to sign up using the official website at HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596. Avoid sham websites and look for official government seals, logos or website addresses. Look for internet sites with a .gov on the end of the website address."

Suspected fraud should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission through the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 or on FTC.gov/complaint. All suspected fraud should also be reported to the Attorney General's Office online or at 1-800-392-8222. Koster and Harrison both said Missouri consumers should not hesitate to report anything suspicious because scams can only be stopped if law enforcement learns of them.