Beware of health plan enrollment scams

If you’re looking for health insurance coverage, look out as well for health care scams. Comparing health insurance plans during the open enrollment period can be confusing and raise lots of questions. Scammers and criminals take full advantage of this.

Consider Your Options
Before enrolling, review your current plan, if you have one, and decide whether it still fits your budget and the health needs of you and any other family members enrolled in the plan. As you compare your current plan with new options, think about the kinds of health needs that you and your family members are likely to encounter in the next year.

Finding Answers
If you have job-based insurance, talk with your employer about your options, costs and deadlines. Iowans seeking policies through the Health Insurance Marketplace can review them at www.healthcare.gov or call 800-318-2596. You may even qualify for savings based on your income. At www.healthcare.gov you’ll find “navigators,” who can help you apply for coverage and enroll you in a health plan. Navigators are trained and certified to provide health plan information that is fair, impartial, and accurate – all at no cost to you.

Licensed insurance agents are trained and registered professionals who can also help you apply for coverage and enroll in a health plan. Their services are free, but remember that agents may sell only for certain health insurance companies.

Health Plan Enrollment Scams
Scammers may attempt to sell you plans that you don’t need or coverage that is worthless. Criminals may attempt to steal personal or financial information under the guise of establishing or “confirming” a health care plan on behalf of the government or a company, or by offering “free” medical supplies or exams in exchange for your information.

Also, avoid government look-alike and imposter websites. These sites, whose website addresses do not end with “.gov,” may connect you with salespeople or scammers, but not the official Marketplace.

Don’t Provide Personal Information to a Caller
Medicare employees will not call you and ask for your Medicare number, Social Security number, or personal financial information. Anyone who calls and claims that they represent Medicare and asks for this information is not legitimate. Hang up the phone and contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.

Be wary of anyone who calls and claims that you will lose your Medicare coverage if you don’t join their prescription plan. The Medicare prescription drug plan, also known as Medicare Part D, is voluntary and does not affect your Medicare Part A and B coverage.

Health Discount Plans
Finally, be wary of “health discount” or “medical discount” plans. With these plans, you generally pay a monthly fee to get purported discounts on specific services or products from a list of providers. Medical discount plans and limited benefit plans don’t pay your health care costs and don’t meet the federal requirements of health insurance coverage.

While there are legitimate health discount plans, there are also plans that are of little or no value. Some sellers may make it sound like they’re offering health insurance plans. Others may lie about their plans’ coverage and costs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before purchasing, get help from a trusted source like a licensed insurance agent or the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at 800-351-4664.

Our office is a part of the Iowa Fraud Fighters team, in a partnership with the Iowa Insurance Division, the Iowa Department on Aging, and SHIIP, which provides Iowans resources about insurance scams and investment frauds at www.iowafraudfighters.gov. If you think you were targeted or victimized by an insurance scam or investment fraud, contact the Iowa Fraud Fighters team through the website or by phone at 877-955-1212.