With the Obama Administration scrambling to cobble together the Obamacare health insurance exchanges in time for the October 1st grand opening, experts say con artists and fraudsters are eager to begin exploiting the new law’s complexity and government-enforced fines to swindle uninsured Americans.
“There are people licking their chops and saying, ‘A sucker is born every minute,'” says Health Access California director Elizabeth Abbott.
Beyond the illegal Obamacare scammers, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute professor Sabrina Corlette tells TIME shady companies promising Obamacare mandate compliance may also prey and profit off citizens unfamiliar with the law’s maze of regulations.
“There are companies and [insurance] brokers that might take advantage of consumer confusion and some of the misinformation out there about new coverage options,” said Corlette.
Federal authorities are well aware of the identity theft threat. In July, the Federal Trade Commission issued an alert warning that fraudsters are using Obamacare to poach Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, Medicare IDs, and other personal information.
Kansas Department of Insurance director of health policy analysis Linda Sheppard warns that unwitting citizens stand to be victimized by confusion surrounding Obamacare’s individual mandate. “If somebody calls you or comes to your door and says, ‘Buy this, it fulfills your Obamacare requirement,’ somebody might not know enough to understand what it is.”
Indeed, last month, a Gallup poll found that 43% of uninsured Americans–the people Obamacare purports to serve–do not even know that the health law requires them to obtain health insurance or face fines and penalties.
A quick glance online underscores the potential for confusion. For example, someone visiting www.ObamacareExchange.com might think they are looking at federal information if they are not mindful of the .gov ending government URLs use.
Even using the Obama Administration’s healthcare.gov portal and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Healthcare.gov) provides a window into forthcoming confusions and problems. One Facebook commenter laments their inability to get their Obamacare password and login to work properly. “I have called and talked with the reps and I am told someone will call me no sooner than two business days…since I am going on vacation, can’t you help me a little sooner?”
Two more commenters complained that they experienced similar login problems.
With such registration glitches and confusion come opportunities for fraudsters and scam artists.
“I hope the October 1 application process is better than the registration create an account process,” they wrote on the government’s official Obamacare Facebook page.