The end of the ACA special enrollment period is approaching

Interview edited for length and clarity. Aired on KRPS on Monday December 19, 2021

FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO (HOST) : It’s Morning Edition on KRPS. I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. Every fall as the year winds down, open enrollment for healthcare for next year opens up. Due to the pandemic the Federal government has allowed for a special enrollment period going on right now through January 15. Recently I spoke with the Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau Stephanie Garland to talk about red flags to watch for if you’re currently purchasing your health insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov or are looking into it. Good Morning Stephanie and thank you for your time.

Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, MO

STEPHANIE GARLAND (GUEST) : Good morning, so unfortunately Fred scammers are seeing right now that open enrollment is actually a chance to trick people out of their hard-earned cash and their personal information. So we’re getting reports from different people about different things that are happening in terms of these healthcare scams. And it’s very concerning a Better Business Bureau. In one case there was a person who reported that they were impersonating a diagnostics lab where they had recently gone for tests. And then they got an email saying that the healthcare provider ordered important tests for you with this diagnostic and an order for you to go ahead and just get ready, all you need to do is pre-registered to save your test and save time. So right there, it’s a red flag. It’s trying to go ahead and get personal information, but, you know, fraud of people aren’t aware of what’s going on. This can look like a legitimate.

FRED : Absolutely and something also this upcoming year, I recently read that there are more healthcare providers in Missouri, than at any other time, during the Affordable Care Act’s history.

So statewide now there are between four and six providers in Southwest, Missouri. Statewide. I should have said there is at least one provider in all of Missouri. So this could also specifically in Missouri, be a banner year for a Missouri resident signing up for healthcare.

STEPHANIE : It could be. And scammers are actually claiming to be quote, healthcare, benefits, advocates, or a similar title. They are supposing that they can go ahead and enroll you in a better program than what you currently have. And what we’re hearing is that they’re telling people the new plan is cheaper. You can keep all the same services, just provide your Medicare ID number. And of course, unfortunately that’s a scam and sharing your personal information will open you up identity theft.

There are two different approaches for that we’re hearing that people are taking. So scammers are taking either A, they want to be your best friend and oh, they’re here to help you or B they’re frightening you and saying that your Medicare will be discontinued or if you don’t re-enroll with. So we want people to be very aware that this is happening. If you have any questions and you want to go ahead and enroll and healthcare.gov or medicare.gov, and you get this call or this email don’t respond instead, go to the actual website itself, and then you can sign up from there.

FRED : You know, in researching for this interview scammers make things real personable, you know, as if this is only happening to you. But it’s estimated that the scope of fraud that could happen is between 68 and $230 billion in healthcare fraud. That’s just for one year, we don’t obviously have a hard number on that. And you brought up Medicaid card and trying to get the Medicaid number. I came across a scam of a Medicare or Affordable Care Act card renewal fee. Apparently they’re scammers making people think that you have to pay every year to get it renewed when that isn’t the case at all.

STEPHANIE : So whenever somebody’s saying that they’re calling you, they’re emailing you they’re at your door and they say that they’re with Medicare. Or they’re with the affordable care act, ACA uh, realize please that people representing the real Medicare or ACA plans, they won’t contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you’ve already enrolled.

So be especially cautious of any kind of threatening calls that require quick action or immediate payment or tell you that you need to re-enroll in something, or you need to pay an additional fee for something that you don’t.

FRED : Absolutely. If you were involved in Medicaid or, uh, a few enrolled in health insurance under healthcare.gov, second guests out, reach out to somebody with healthcare.gov specifically, or reach out to the Better Business Bureau hit the scam tracker, because it’s, it’s incredibly possible that somebody else could have had the same scam, tried on them and that is something that, you know, you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole.

STEPHANIE : No, you certainly don’t. And please be aware of any dishonest brokers who quote, offer free health screenings. Some of these brokers are actually offering this to weed out people who are less healthy. And that’s called cherry picking and it’s actually against Medicare rules.

So something free it sounds really tempting, especially if you know that you need to get a healthcare screening anyway, but we would advise for you to go ahead and use your doctor and your established physician instead of just taking advantage of whatever supposed opportunity is granted to you.

FRED : Stephanie Garland, with the Better Business Bureau. Thank you for speaking with me.

STEPHANIE : Thank you

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