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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Understanding Obamacare: How to Avoid Insurance Scams

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Question: Do I need to be worried about my personal information under Obamacare?

Answer: You should always be careful when it comes to personal information, and buying health coverage is no different. While it has never been easier to access private health insurance that can never be taken away from you, we suggest that you do the following to prevent problems.

Never give your money or your information to anyone who contacts you. This is especially true if anyone says that they will enroll you in healthcare.gov for a charge. The people who offer legitimate help with the Health Marketplace—sometimes called Navigators or Assisters—are not allowed to charge you. Health insurance agents can enroll you, but they are paid by the insurer, not the consumer. And while brokers sometimes charge for their services, they most likely won’t be soliciting you out of the blue.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) cautions against listening to any entity that suggests you need a new insurance card or Medicare card because of the Affordable Care Act. Especially if they ask for any for any personal information first, no matter how benign.

Another scam to avoid: medical discount plans offering discounts on health services and products. If they contact you and say they meet the minimum coverage required under “Obamacare” so you won’t have to pay a penalty or look at other plans, beware. Medical discount plans are not health insurance.

If you suspect a scam, call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or go to ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports give the Federal Trade Commission the power to shut scammers down.

The Affordable Care Act expands freedom to millions of Americans to access quality affordable coverage. But just like any major purchase, it is important to be vigilant about your personal information.

—Kevin Kane, lead organizer, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

The Shepherd Express and Citizen Action of Wisconsin will answer questions about the Affordable Care Act during its implementation. Got a question? Email editor@shepex.com.

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