By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
Boise’s Currant Lane is a well-kept established neighborhood near Maple Grove and Fairview avenues. A majority of residents are seniors.
So, when Mable Schultz (not her real name) received a flier declaring she and her husband could apply for the new state-regulated life insurance program, she felt unsettled.
“With all the new state insurance programs out there, I’m not sure what to believe and what not to believe,” she says.
The tri-fold postcard states this insurance program is for any Idaho resident between 50-85 years old, to help pay final expenses.
This program, it reads, will pay 100 percent of all funeral expenses not paid by government funds, up to $50,000 tax-free. That’s when Mrs. Schultz called BBB. BBB traced the card to a Marietta, Ga.-company that collects the names for insurance sales leads.
Tricia Carney, Idaho Department of Insurance spokeswoman, says all life insurance is regulated by the state. There is no “state” life insurance only the new exchange.
“If you have any questions about an insurance agency, you can call the department and verify,” she says.
State insurance department officials are so concerned about scams accompanying the new Affordable Care Act that begins on Oct. 1.
Insurance Director Bill Deal says, “Since the ACA was signed into law in March 2010, fraudsters have come up with creative ways to obtain sensitive information like social security and back account numbers.”
Your Health Idaho, a secure online portal, has been set up giving users a chance to select a coverage plan and to sign up.
Insurance scam red flags include:
• A salesperson claims to have your new “Obamacare” insurance card. To receive it, you must give personal information: credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number. A variation of this scam specifically targets seniors on Medicare. The caller claims that seniors must verify their bank account and routing numbers so they can get a new Medicare card to continue benefits. You are not required to get a new insurance or Medicare card under the ACA. A legitimate representative of the federal government will already have your personal and financial information and should not ask you to give it.
• A salesperson says the premium offer is only good for a limited time. Signup for Your Health Idaho is open from October 1 to March 31; rates for the enrollment period are set. Don’t let anyone pressure you for any reason.
• A salesperson says you could go to jail for not having health insurance. Starting in 2014, all Americans are required to have health insurance. You will not face jail time if you do not purchase health insurance; however, you could be required to pay a penalty. More information about the individual mandate can be found on the Department’s website on the Health Care Reform page.
• A salesperson calls or emails about selling any new state insurance. State and federal departments will not contact people to sell insurance. Do not give sensitive information to anyone who contacts you claiming to be with the government, Department of Insurance or an in-person Your Health Idaho rep.
Do your research before you buy or change insurance plans. If you have any question about a mailing or other solicitation, contact the BBB at 800-218-1001 or at www.bbb.org. The BBB also offers Reliability Reports on companies.