RALEIGH — N.C Department of Insurance (NCDOI) commissioner Wayne Goodwin warns North Carolinians to beware of scam artists who may try to take advantage of the confusion surrounding federal health care reform.
“Scammers may pose as insurance agents or representatives of the federal government in an attempt to sell fraudulent policies or collect your personal information,” Goodwin said. “The best way to protect yourself is to be informed and recognize red flags.”
New Health Insurance Marketplaces, or exchanges, opened Oct. 1. These online portals ask consumers to enter information about themselves and select the level of coverage they desire to receive a list of plans they can purchase. North Carolina’s Health Insurance Marketplace is run by the federal government and can be accessed at www.healthcare.gov.
Beware of bogus websites that give the appearance of being part of the new Marketplace. You should also be suspicious of anyone who charges a fee for information about the Marketplace or in connection with enrollment.
Another common ploy involves unsolicited calls from scammers who claim to have new “Obamacare” insurance cards — they just need to get some information before they can send it to you. The caller then asks for credit card numbers, bank account information or your Social Security number.
A variation of this trick specifically targets seniors on Medicare. The caller claims that for them to get their new Medicare card and continue receiving their benefits, they must verify their bank account and routing numbers.
Some callers ask for their Medicare numbers, which are identical to Social Security numbers.
Medicare beneficiaries are not required to obtain a new insurance or Medicare card under the Affordable Care Act. Also, anyone who is a legitimate representative of the federal government will already have your personal and financial information and should not ask you to provide it.
Here are some other important red flags to watch out for:
•The salesperson says the premium offer is only good for a limited time. Enrollment in the exchanges will be open from Oct. 1 to March 31, and rates for plans in the exchanges will have been approved for the entire enrollment period. Be skeptical of someone trying to pressure you into buying a policy because the rate is only good for a short time. Remember, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
•You receive an unsolicited phone call, email or visit from someone trying to sell insurance. The federal government and state insurance departments will not be contacting individual consumers to sell insurance. Do not give any sensitive information to anyone who calls or comes to your home without your permission, even if they claim to be with the federal government, your state insurance department or a navigator for the exchange.
Readers with questions about health insurance, can call NCDOI’s Health Insurance Smart NC program at 877-885-0231.
If you have questions about Medicare, call SHIIP, the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program, at 800-443-9354.
To find local assistance with enrollment through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace/exchange, call 800-318-2596 or visit www.healthcare.gov.