Health care reform has helped produce a new wrinkle on an old scam. Crooks are taking advantage of consumer confusion over health care to peddle fake plans and worthless policies or insurance consumers don’t need. Health & Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the latest to jump on the public awareness bandwagon to warn consumers about these scams. During a speech at the National Press Club earlier this week she said scam artists were going door to door telling people there was a limited open-enrollment period to buy coverage and they needed to buy now.
Sebelius, a former state insurance commissioner, said states need to investigate and prosecute these scams.
This new wrinkle comes atop a growing wave of bogus health plans and shady medical discount programs that are defrauding consumers by the thousands. Some states are taking action, such as the recent action in Tennessee where two sham health plans were taken over by regulators. Law enforcement also has ongoing criminal investigations in several states.
This is a good start. But more prevention is needed. That’s where alerts like the one issued by Sebelius and others come in. The best awareness campaign we’ve seen was just launched in Nevada. The campaign is a joint project of the state’s department of insurance, the Nevada Surplus Lines Association and the Nevada Independent Insurance Agents Association.
The campaign features tv and radio spots, a robust website and an interactive system to help consumers verify health insurers and discount plans. The website — NVInsuranceAlert.com — also contains red flags and useful tips on choosing a health plan.
The ads carry a double tagline — “Question the company and their plan” and “Check before you write a check.” Solid advice both.
State regulators have shown up a bit late for this party, partly because many budgets have been cut back for such things as consumer assistance. Perhaps if more took the lead from Nevada and partnered with industry groups, we might find a way to final get ahead of this crime spree.