Every year, the U.S. federal government has open enrollment to give people a chance to sign up for health care coverage.
The open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started November 1 and runs through January 15, while Medicare enrollment began October 15 and runs through December 7. However, selecting a health insurance plan can be challenging and complex and people understandably have questions and concerns. Unfortunately, scammers often take advantage of this opportunity to trick people out of money and personal information.
How the Scam Works:
BBB Scam Tracker gets many reports about scammers claiming to be a government representative who can help you navigate your Medicare or Affordable Care Act options. Scammers claim to be a “health care benefits advocate” or a similar title.
These scammers allege they can enroll you in a better program than what you currently have. This new plan is cheaper, and you can keep all the same services. To get started, all you need to do is provide some personal information, such as your Medicare ID number. Of course, the call is a scam, and sharing personal information will open you up to identity theft.
In another common scam, callers try to frighten – rather than assist – victims with their health care plans. In this case, scammers claim that your Medicare will be discontinued if you didn’t re-enroll. Fortunately, this “Medicare advisor” can fix the situation – if you share personal information with them.
Watch out for similar scams this fall. Healthcare.gov does provide legitimate help with figuring out which plan is right for you. These people — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — are not allowed to charge for their help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam. You will also need to contact them. They will not call you out-of-the-blue.
Tips to Avoid Open Enrollment Scams
Be wary of anyone who contacts you unsolicited. People representing Medicare or ACA plans don’t contact you by phone, email, or in-person unless you are already enrolled. Be especially cautious of threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment.
- Decline promotional gifts in exchange for personal information. Keep a healthy level of skepticism any time a broker offers you free gifts, health screenings, or other special deals. Never sign up with a broker who offers you an expensive “sign-up gift” in exchange for providing your Medicare ID number or other personally identifiable information.
- Beware of dishonest brokers who offer “free health screenings.” Some brokers offer this to weed out people who are less healthy. This is called “cherry picking” and is against the Medicare rules.
- Guard your government-issued numbers. Never offer your Medicare ID number, Social Security number, health plan info, or banking information to anyone you don’t know.
- Hang up and go to official websites. You can enroll or re-enroll in Medicare at Medicare.gov or in a marketplace health plan at Healthcare.gov.
- For more information:
If you are unsure whether a call or offer is from Medicare, or you gave your personal information to someone claiming to be with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report it. If you suspect fraud when signing up for ACA coverage, go to HealthCare.gov or call the Health Insurance Marketplace call center at 800-318-2596.
For more tips from BBB on avoiding health care scams, check BBB.org/HealthCareScam. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.