With one month until health care enrollment beings under the Affordable Care Act, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to protect their personal information from possible scammers. Health reform’s next big deadline, Oct. 1, marks the beginning of new insurance exchanges, where consumers can purchase different levels of health plans based on common pricing. By Jan. 1, uninsured individuals and families must have “minimum essential coverage” or face annual penalties that increase every year until 2016, according to the Texas Association of Health Underwriters. But as deadlines approach, scammers are claiming “it’s the law” and “the government now requires it” to get consumers to reveal personal information, according to bureau and security experts. Scammers pose as government employees and ask consumers for Social Security numbers and bank account numbers to sign them up for health plans or Medicare.
Experts urge individuals and families to ignore these calls, emails and in-person visits. They also said the health exchanges, including the Small Business Health Options Program and Permian Basin Employer Health Plan Cooperative, do not open for business until Oct. 1, so brokers cannot technically sell plans until then. The bureau advises consumers to stay informed to know where to look for options. A poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 51 percent of Americans say they still don’t know how the law will impact them. “The Affordable Care Act is going to create a new health care reality in Texas, placing more responsibility on individual Texans,” said Mark Bellman, president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters, in a prepared statement. “Many may find themselves feeling unprepared to make these important, complex decisions in a time of uncertainty and change.”