Watch for scams related to the Affordable Care Act

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COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. and Insurance Director Mary Taylor are warning Ohioans to guard against scams related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare, with open enrollment for the new federally-run health insurance exchange in Ohio running through March 31. Coverage begins Jan. 1 for those who select a plan by Dec. 15.

“It’s imperative Ohioans understand the facts about the ACA and the federal exchange so they can best protect themselves,” Taylor said. “Because the federal law and the exchanges are new and complicated to consumers, Ohioans should be even more cautious about potential scams and fraudulent behavior.”

Reports of ACA-related scams initially surfaced in Ohio over the summer. With consumers and small business representatives now shopping for exchange coverage, even more scammers may try to take advantage of people.

Taylor and DeWine offered Ohioans the following tips to avoid scams:

  • Guard your personal information. Legitimate government representatives will never contact you unexpectedly and request personal information, such as your Social Security or bank account number. If you do give out personal information tied to a potential scam, immediately inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus.
  • Never pay upfront fees. Government program representatives do not sell insurance or demand upfront payment, and navigators (individuals who can provide information about the ACA) are free.
  • Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Promises about “free” medical devices may signal a scam.
  • Get information from reliable sources. Watch out for phony websites or individuals who pretend to be associated with the government. Contact the Ohio Department of Insurance and the federal government if you have questions about the ACA.
  • Report scams or suspicious activity to the Ohio Attorney General and Department of Insurance.

Bogus websites

The new federally-run health insurance exchange in Ohio is an online portal where consumers who need individual health insurance and small businesses can go to secure certain coverage.

You can find more information about the federal exchange in Ohio by visiting www.healthcare.gov, which is the only website where Ohioans can enroll.

Bogus websites that purport to be part of the exchanges have been appearing online for more than a year. They often attempt to mirror the look of an official exchange website but they are not legitimate.

Those behind the fake websites claim you can receive subsidies and purchase a policy. They attempt to collect personal information by asking visitors to complete online information forms.

Check for certification

Navigators, who must be certified by the Ohio Department of Insurance, were created by the federal law to provide information about the exchanges to consumers. Funded by the federal government, navigators are prohibited from recommending specific plans.

Navigators who receive certification will be searchable on www.insurance.ohio.gov. Insurance agents can help Ohioans shop and enroll for exchange coverage, once they have completed training and are certified. Agents are permitted to recommend plans, which are generally those in which they have a contract with that insurer, and help people enroll.

A list of Ohio-licensed agents is available at www.insurance.ohio.gov.

Scammers can claim to be a government official or agent in an attempt to steal your personal information, including bank account number. Be certain to review their licensure and certification status before beginning a business relationship.

New Obamacare cards?

You are not required to obtain a new insurance or Medicare card under the ACA. There is not an “Obamacare” insurance card and the ACA does not require Medicare recipients to sign up for new coverage to continue to receive benefits.

Anyone who is a legitimate representative of the federal government should not ask you to provide your personal and financial information. One ploy involves unsolicited calls from scammers who claim to have your new “Obamacare” insurance card and they just need to get some personal information before they can send it to you.

A variation targets those with Medicare, in which callers say they need the person’s information so they receive their new Medicare card and continue receiving benefits.

Information

Ohioans who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice can either contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov, or the Department of Insurance’s new ACA fraud hotline at 177-727-6427.

Those with questions about health insurance can call the Department of Insurance at 800-686-1526 or visit www.insurance.ohio.gov.

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