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Consumers warned of health insurance scams Posted: October 10th, 2013

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Scammers may be looking to take advantage of widespread confusion regarding online health insurance exchanges and the health reform law.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)is warning consumers not to fall for bogus websites that are designed to mimic official government insurance websites. In addition, the association notes some scam artists may try to obtain private information from individuals under the guise of registering them for 'Obamacare insurance cards.'

Consumers should be alert for scam websites and callers

A September announcement from the NAIC recommends consumers be aware of two common scams making the rounds.

The first is the creation of medical insurance websites that claim to be affiliated with government exchanges but actually have no connection to the official marketplaces. Even if these websites are selling legitimate health insurance plans, they are misleading consumers who could benefit from purchasing their coverage on an official exchange.

Only health insurance coverage purchased on government exchanges -- accessible through the official website healthcare.gov -- is eligible for tax credits. Those credits are intended to make affordable health insurance available to those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.

The second scam involves individuals calling residents at their home. The individual calling will say he or she needs bank information, Social Security numbers or credit card account details in order to issue an 'Obamacare insurance card.'

However, there is no such thing as an Obamacare insurance card, and consumers should be careful to never reveal information such as Social Security numbers or financial account information to an unsolicited caller.

Confusion creates breeding ground for scammers

Scammers are undoubtedly hoping to capitalize on the widespread confusion that exists regarding the health reform law and health insurance exchanges.

A September USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll found a third of respondents said they did not understand well or did not understand at all how the health reform law would affect them and their families. In addition, only 51 percent of those polled knew a health insurance exchange would be available in their state or that government subsidies would given to low-income residents to help them find low cost health insurance.

In reality, residents in each state will be able to purchase medical insurance through an exchange. While some exchanges will be run by the state, others will be administered by the federal government. However, all exchanges will offer access to tax credits.

The exchanges are hoped to be a convenient way for families to purchase affordable health insurance and meet the individual mandate that goes into effect in January 2014.