Two news items caught my eye last week. They took place about 500 miles apart yet both spoke to fraud issues with Obamacare.
Obamacare signup can be easily duped. The feds easily slid 10 fake applicants with bogus SSNs through the signup system, online and by phone. The GAO was testifying on Capital Hill this month, and released a report about the test.
The contractor that handles Obamacare application documents isn’t required to look for fraud, only to inspect to make sure documents have not obviously been altered, the GAO report found.
Sleazy tax preparers also have told filers to pay directly to them the federal penalties for failing to buy health coverage. In some cases the payer has Medicaid or other health and doesn’t owe the penalty.
The scam takes various forms, the IRS says.
Swindlers were spotted at an Atlanta shopping center, trying to con hundreds of people into paying $500 for fake Obamacare “grants.”
And email phishing ploys also were reported early this year, with official-looking Obamacare emails trying to lure people into opening disguised malware links. There’s a large underworld of such spammy cons because they’re easy to mass-mail at little cost.
Often-amateurish schemers have tried to convince consumers to hand over their banking, medical and credit-card info in order to receive their “Obamacare cards” or “enroll” in the healthcare program.
Legitimate questions also have arisen about whether the feds can verify people’s eligibility for premium subsidies in certain states.
The GAO signup test and subsidy-eligibility concerns are fodder for Republicans determined to bring down Obamacare. The GAO test points toward self-admitted system weaknesses that need shoring up. Deeper investigation into the full extent of real-life expoiting of such soft spots needs conducting as well. Still, no evidence of a fraud pandemic revealing fatal flaws in Obamacare yet have publicly surfaced — so far de-fanging that part of the Republican beef.
Consumers, however, likely will remain targets of ID theft and other cons tagged to Obamacare. Slick hackers and other operators have effectively eliminated personal privacy. Consumers will have to stay alert, watch for “official” emails and phone calls and deals from strangers.
With or without Obamacare, it’s still a dangerous world out there.
About the author: Jim Quiggle is director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.