Updated Sept. 6, 2019: Health care is confusing.
We should know. We recently surveyed 1,501 people about health care and hardly anyone knew the basic facts.
It gets even worse during open enrollment, when people need to make a big financial decision in a limited amount of time and see lots of conflicting information. Scammers take advantage of this confusion during open enrollment by bombarding them with robocalls selling fake or junk health plans and stealing their financial information.
Find out how these scams work and how to avoid them.
Scammers are calling consumers to sell what they claim are Obamacare or "Trumpcare" plans, said James Quiggle, a spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. While Obamacare has become another name for the Affordable Care Act, "Trumpcare" doesn't exist, Quiggle said.
Some callers claim to sell comprehensive health insurance. People sign up for the plans because they're cheap, but when they see the policy, they're actually short-term health plans that have limited benefits and don't cover pre-existing conditions, Quiggle said. Other callers sell plans that don't even exist. (Our partner Agile Health can help you find legitimate short-term health plans.)
The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month filed a complaint against a Florida company that allegedly sold "worthless" plans to tens of thousands of consumers. Consumers thought they were buying comprehensive health insurance for as much as $500 a month, but the plans didn't deliver any of the promised benefits. (Ryan D. O'Quinn, an attorney for Steve Dorfman, the owner of the accused company, said his client denied the allegations.)
Scammers also target people on Medicare. They call saying they're from Medicare and offer to update Medicare cards for a fee, Quiggle said.
They tell seniors they could lose their Medicare benefits if they don't respond immediately. The scammers try to get people to pay for Medicare cards when they don't have to and steal their financial information. Remember: Medicare will never call and ask for information for a new Medicare number or card.
How to avoid scams
A recorded voice is an automatic red flag, Quiggle said. Legitimate health care providers won't bombard people with robocalls.
If a robocall prompts you to push a number on your dial pad, don't do it. This just tells scammers there's a real person on the other line, and will lead to many more robocalls.
Another red flag? If a caller asks for your Social Security number, credit card number or other sensitive financial information, Quiggle said. Legitimate health providers won't ask for this information over the phone.
One way to slow the number of calls is to sign up for the FTC National Do Not Call Registry. This free tool can help reduce the number of telemarketing calls you get. Register at DoNotCall.gov.
And remember: If someone calls with a health insurance deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is, Quiggle said. Choosing a health care plan should be a measured decision, not one made over the phone with a stranger. Get the details in writing before signing up for any plan and look them over carefully.
"Work through legitimate insurance agents," Quiggle said. "Work through an insurance company's website and its advisers."
Need help? Policygenius can help you compare and buy health insurance plans.
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