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Disastrous Healthcare.gov website spawning wave of con artists who prey on confusion

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Healthcare.gov, con artists, health insurance exchanges

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(NaturalNews) In addition to its plethora of other problems, Obamacare is also creating a new breed of con artists.

Never before in the history of the country have Americans been so confused - and bewildered and angry - by such a major, life-altering piece of legislation. In particular, the chaos over the glitch-prone Healthcare.gov website has given rise to a wave of con artists and unscrupulous marketers who are preying on people to steal their identity and sell them phony products linked to Obamacare.

The New York Times reports:

Madeleine Mirzayans was fooled when a man posing as a government official knocked on her door. Barbara Miller and Maevis Ethan were pitched by telemarketers who claimed to work for Medicaid. And Buford Price was almost caught by another trap: websites that look official but are actually bait set by fly-by-night insurance operators.

Diversified fraud and abuse

Of course, Americans are used to fraud and abuse inherent in any big government program. Obama administration officials expected to see some associated with Affordable Care Act. The Times said that "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services; Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission; and other officials met at the White House in September to discuss possible pitfalls."

"With this changing health insurance landscape, there is a new opportunity for people to take advantage of our residents, and we've seen it starting already," Kate Abernathy, a spokeswoman at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, told the paper.

Right now, it's difficult to gauge the severity and scope of the fraud, but officials and authorities in a number of states say it is definitely increasing. And worse, websites are some of the most difficult entities to track.

"We are remaining vigilant, since we anticipated that the law was so complex that scam artists would take advantage of it," Tom Miller, the attorney general of Iowa, told the Times.

"In New York and Illinois, attorneys general are investigating at least two firms that they suspect of fraud, according to people briefed on the matter. Since October, attorney general offices in 36 states have been holding conference calls about the emerging dangers every two weeks," said the paper.

The thieves and hucksters are targeting vulnerable senior citizens the most.

Under the law, people who are age 65 and older and who are already on Medicare don't have to buy supplemental health coverage. Still, there are marketers pushing expensive add-on coverage policies by claiming, falsely, that such coverage is mandatory.

Other hucksters are telling people that the law really means they need new Medicare cards - again, not so. Still, others are charging as much as $100 to "help" customers navigate the ever-changing and newly confusing health insurance industry.

'I feel so foolish and betrayed'

Some people are also creating websites that look like state healthcare exchanges established by Obamacare. Many come with official-sounding URLs, like NewHampshireHealthExchange.com. People who visit such sites are "inundated with pitches from private insurance agents unaffiliated with the government," the paper reported.

In a number of instances, such propositions are nothing more than a trick to get people to give up their sensitive Medicare and banking information. Such pitches usually involve a telephone call or someone showing up at the front door.

"Someone claiming to be a government official offers help or warns residents that their Medicare cards are about to expire. Then the hook is set," said the Times.

"I just feel so foolish and betrayed," said Ms. Mirzayans, who reported the incident to state authorities.

But she's far from alone.

"Across the country, volunteers with Senior Medicare Patrol, a government program that works with older Americans to root out health care fraud, say they have been deluged with calls for assistance," reported the Times. "The typical complaints are from retirees who said they had handed over bank account information to callers claiming to be from Medicare."





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