Seeking health coverage? Avoid scammers

The OlympianOctober 2, 2013 

The nation’s new Affordable Care Act officially launched yesterday, and this morning the sun came up. The sky did not fall. There was no health care rapture.

There are, however, other kinds of problems that will arise in the days ahead. Expect glitches in the system as 40 million uninsured Americans — nearly 1 million in Washington — try to navigate the states’ online health care exchanges. There are multiple plan options and myriad choices within each plan.

People familiar with health insurance may find it confusing, or at least overwhelming, not to mention those who have no experience deciphering insurance lingo.

And then, there are the scammers. These low-lifers will prey on the inexperienced and try to exploit unfamiliarity with the new system to make a fast buck.

For starters, don’t accept unsolicited telephone calls from anyone claiming to represent the ACA or the state health care exchange. They are not making random phone calls. These are most likely scammers trying to steal your medical or banking information.

Make sure you are on the official state exchange site. It can be found at wahealthplanfinder.org.

A private Seattle-based insurance company obtained the Internet domain rights to two disturbingly similar web addresses, washington healthplanfinder.org and also washingtonhealthplanfinder.com. Neither is the official state exchange.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner calls the confusion with the state’s bona fide website “troubling” and is investigating the unofficial sites.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud is warning against malicious websites designed for identify theft by coaxing people to input private financial information. The coalition has caught crooked health care websites in the past, so it’s only a matter of time before criminals try to capitalize during the ACA transition.

The official Washington Health Benefit Exchange wants people to inform them of any suspicious phone calls, emails or websites they encounter. A constant vigilance can save the people the ACA is designed to help from falling into the clutches of Internet thieves.

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