[Image courtesy of chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
In the US, the Affordable Care Act has been a consistent feature in the headlines since it became law back in 2010. Now with opening date of the online state health insurance marketplaces, less than a month away on October 1st, many Americans are eager to sign up for insurance and finally see how it’ll all work.
States can opt to be in charge of creating and regulating their own insurance marketplaces, while others have left the task to the federal government. In recent months there has been a fair amount speculation about the effectiveness of the digital security measures being used to secure the marketplaces. Especially with the federal government delaying key security testing deadlines until mere days before the marketplaces go live.
Aside from possible identity thieves making trouble in the case of lax digital security there is are also the phone and door to door. These scams consist of emails, phone calls, or even home visits from supposed “government officials”, working in accordance with the new law. Another popular scam comes in the form of an invitation from an “insurance representative”, who falsely offers assistance in the ins and outs of the new healthcare law, in order to obtain personal and financial information.
In California, one scam claims that failure to buy insurance immediately could result in imprisonment.
What makes this type of scamming possible is that misinformation about the ACA is everywhere. Most people are not sure exactly what the law is or how it affects them. This confusion makes the majority of people prime targets for fraudsters.
So what does all this mean for the average consumer? When it comes to the ACA, how do you know whom to trust? Without further ado here are five fairly simple, common sense strategies that will help keep you and your loved ones protected from fraud and identity theft.
Number 1: Get Informed
Knowledge is the most important element of consumer protection.
If you know that insurance marketplaces don’t open until October 1st, you’ll know better than to be taken by scams that tell you to act immediately or else.
But how do you find this proper information? And how do you know if a site or email is attempting to mislead you using falsified information?
To check, go to a reliable source and read about the ACA. State and Government websites are great resources for factual information. Here’s a helpful page from the Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/rights/index.html.
Number 2: Don’t Be Gullible
If you receive a suspicious or unusual email, call, or visit, don’t just take it at face value. For some seniors, this can sometimes be difficult given that they may not be of completely sound mind, or reasoning.
Think about it this way: If a stranger asked to come into your home, would you let them in?
The question is the same with your insurance and identity information.
If a person or organization claims to be official, do your research. Inputting email addresses and organization names into a search engine can be a quick and easy way to protect yourself from unknowingly putting your information into the wrong hands.
If you’re dealing with a fake, chances are you’ll find out within seconds.
Number 3: Have A System In Place For Personal Security
When it comes to fraud, protecting digitally stored information is key.
Change your passwords regularly and never give out your passwords or account numbers to anyone. If someone comes to your home claiming to be from the government, they are required to show you identification. Be sure to request this information, and to question anyone who asks for your social security number, email, or bank account information.
This is all very basic stuff, but it doesn’t always dawn on people to protect their identities in this way.
Number 4: Develop A Plan Of Action
If you know that insurance marketplaces open on October 1st, and you’ve gone to your state website, then you can begin to develop a plan of action.
By this I mean, having a sense of the steps in the process of purchasing healthcare under the ACA, so that when the time comes, you won’t be scrambling.
If you have an idea of how things will work, you will be less likely to be roped in by scammers. No one can do the work for you, and developing a plan of action also helps you to be more prepared in general, when the changes take place.
Number 5: Stay Informed
I cannot stress this enough: keep yourself updated on any and all changes to the ACA by frequenting state and government websites.
If the marketplace implementation date is pushed off to November, for instance, you should be aware of the change as soon as possible, so that you can prepare accordingly.
Legislation is always subject to change, and as we know, plans on paper don’t always work out the same way in the real world. The Affordable Care Act is no exception. Since its inception, the law has gone through numerous changes, and it will continue to go through changes before October.
So it’s up to you to keep yourself in the loop. And to keep your livelihood protected.
That way, you’ll be able to focus on the benefits of this landmark piece of legislation, and get the quality care you deserve.
Michael Cahill is the Editor of the Vista Health Solutions Blog. He writes about the health care system, health insurance industry and the Affordable Care Act. Follow him on Twitter at @VistaHealth and @VistaHealthMike