‘Double check’ before you sign up for health insurance
As enrollment deadline approaches, scammers target consumers
DES MOINES -- Health insurance continues to change, and that can confuse consumers. Unfortunately, scammers will exploit that confusion.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office and the Iowa Insurance Division remind Iowans to “double check” before they sign up for health insurance. Research your options by finding a licensed agent at doublecheck.iowa.gov.
“Don’t be fooled by telemarketers spreading misinformation or seeking your personal data,” said Attorney General Tom Miller. “A licensed agent or assister can direct you to the right options for you and your family.”
Iowans planning to sign up for an Affordable Care Act plan must act quickly. The open enrollment period ends Dec. 15, 2018, for Iowans purchasing or changing their ACA individual health coverage to become effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Healthcare.gov is the only official government website selling health insurance, and buyers should beware of imitation websites. You can find local help with ACA coverage options by visiting https://localhelp.HealthCare.gov/.
No Iowa organizations applied for federal funding for health navigators this year. But Iowans buying on the ACA Marketplace can find assisters at some county health departments, hospitals and nonprofit agencies; just put in your zip code at Healthcare.gov to find an assister near you.
In Iowa, two carriers, Medica and Wellmark, offer ACA-compliant individual plans. Insurers and regulators say consumers have received robocalls saying such plans will not be offered.
Watch out for enrollment scams
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.
YouMail, a company that tracks robocalls, has reported calls from Iowa area codes that are likely health enrollment scams. One call claims “that your current health insurance plan was no longer being offered.” Another says: “You may qualify for this new state regulated plan which could pay for all of your final expenses. Even if you had past medical conditions or have been turned down before. I just need to confirm that you're between the ages of 45 and 80.”
You have more options; check before buying
Iowans do have new health care options for next year. The Iowa Legislature and the federal government have provided a few more health coverage options in addition to ACA-compliant coverage for Iowans. That includes a non-insurance health benefit plan sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau, and changes that allow business owners to form Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs) and Association Health Plans (AHPs). Go to doublecheck.iowa.gov to find licensed agents to discover your options.
Signing up for Medicare
Medicare open enrollment for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug coverage (Part D) ends Dec. 7, 2018. If you miss the deadline and didn’t experience a qualifying event, you can apply during general enrollment (Jan. 1 through March 31 of each year), though you will have to pay a premium penalty.
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.
How to file a complaint
The Iowa Attorney General’s 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 https://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.
As always, report scams to your local law enforcement agency or the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. To file a complaint, go here or call 515-281-5926 (in Des Moines area) or 888-777-4590 (outside the metro area).
For more tips, follow the Iowa Attorney General on Facebook and Twitter at @AGIowa