Surveys over the last few years show that millions of Americans may have a lot of work to do when it comes to fully understanding their options where health insurance and care is concerned. Despite the increased focus on this kind of coverage over the last few years, there hasn't been much change in what consumers know about the issues that will benefit them as they seek the most affordable coverage. So it comes as no surprise, then, that a number of consumer advocates are now starting to sound some alarm bells about scams rising up around health insurance these days.
It stands to reason that criminals will try to prey upon misconceptions and misunderstandings about anything that is required of consumers, or that they deal with in their everyday lives, according to a report from the Texas Tribune. Scams related to everything from auto insurance to home repairs are prevalent throughout the country, and now these crooks seem to have moved on to health care because people just don't understand their obligations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and also may not fully be aware of issues like what coverage should cost, and why.
For instance, criminals have been spotted at flea markets, charging people a fee to sign them up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, while others run a similar scam through 1-800 numbers, the report said. This preys upon consumers' lack of understanding that help signing up can be obtained for free from a number of places that are likely to be within a short drive of their house.
Jose Medrano, a regional director for Enroll America, the advocacy group offering free information to people signing up for health insurance, told the publication that the victims tend to be people with good intentions who want to comply with federal law, but who don't understand what they're getting into, the report said. In many cases, these scammers aren't always going to be forthcoming as it relates to what kinds of fees they'll charge to people after they sign some sort of document.
Picking at fears
In addition, though, these scam artists might also use real-world information to help scare people into being ripped off, the report said. For instance, they may highlight to consumers the very real fact that if they go without coverage in 2016, they will be charged a fee of $695 on their taxes per uncovered adult. That could be sufficient to startle people into accepting the help of a scammer for anywhere between $50 or more than $100.
For this reason, health insurance companies are likely to have significant incentive to start doing more outreach to educate people about their rights and what they should and shouldn't have to do to get signed up for the exchanges if they need to do so. This could help to avoid a myriad of problems that could arise for people who don't fully understand the process.