Health Insurance Scams Come Out In Full Force During Holidays
Health Insurance Scams come out in full force during the Holiday Season. It’s really not surprising this happens. People are preoccupied with shopping, gifts, and parties. Researching the bureaucratic maze of health insurance is the furthest thing from their minds, Hence, they let their guard down and are ripe for the plucking by scammers and cheats.
In fact, even in the calmest of times, insurance shopping is confusing and sometimes even worse than a root canal.
Of course, scammers count on this confusion, the better to sell you insurance products that deliver less benefits than promised, or none at all.
Fraudsters try to convince you they have a simple solution to the complexity and expense of getting covered. They cold-call you or generate leads through websites offering information about health plans that meet all requirements.
Health Insurance Scams: What You Need To Know
The insurance policies these scammer push on you, are in many cases just medical discount plans. You’re not insured. At worst, they’re fakes and you’re out your money with no coverage.
While some discount programs are legitimate, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns, they are not a substitute for insurance. In November 2018, the FTC filed a complaint against a Florida company that allegedly bilked more than $100 million from consumers. They sold discount-plan memberships as comprehensive coverage, leaving buyers uninsured and stuck with big medical bills.
They tell you that they need your personal information to verify an application. Or that they can help you choose the right plan, for a fee. Do not give them your personal information.
Health Insurance Information: Warning Signs
Here are several suggestions on how you can protect yourself against insurance scammers. The most important advice is to never give out your information over the phone or through an Internet application. If you do, you’re probably setting yourself up to become an identity theft statistic.
In general, beware of these sales pitches:
- High-pressure sales pitches that push low-cost plans or offer special rates if you sign up right away.
- Claims that a plan is licensed under ERISA, the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Insurance companies are licensed by the states, not by any federal body.
- A plan requires you to join an “association” or “union” to get covered. These may be fake organizations designed to create the illusion that you are buying group health insurance.
- Someone contacting you about health coverage claims to be from the government. No government representative will ever try to sell you insurance.
Be Vigilant: Ask Questions
- Do compare rates. Premiums for “comprehensive” coverage that are far lower than what you see elsewhere are probably too good to be true.
- Do confirm with your state insurance commissioner that a plan provider is licensed.
- Insist on seeing a statement of benefits or a complete copy of the policy.
- Learn about the difference between medical discount plans and health insurance, and ask specific questions to make sure you know what you’re getting.
- Research an association or union named in an insurance pitch. Look for a U.S. street address and phone number, and for evidence of activity other than selling health insurance.
- If an unfamiliar company says it sells plans through a major insurer like BlueCross BlueShield, do check it with the big name.
Health Insurance Scams: Don’t Do This
- Don’t enter personal information on a website in exchange for a price quote. You are likely setting yourself up for identity theft or a barrage of sales calls.
- Hang up on a sales agent who gives vague or evasive answers to coverage questions or tells you the details are “in the brochure.”
- Don’t sign up for a plan if the bar for acceptance seems too low — for example, if you are not required to get a physical or provide a medical history. Some scam sites claim you can get insurance just by filling out a form.
- Don’t give bank, credit card or personal information, or make a payment, to someone who calls or comes to your door regarding ACA coverage. Assistance in navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace is available for free all over the country (go to HealthCare.gov and click “Find Local Help”). Real marketplace representatives will not ask you for personal or financial data.