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October 2, 2013

Fraudsters could cash in on ACA confusion

Health insurance exchange could bring out scam artists.

INDIANAPOLIS – The rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange Tuesday came with more than computer glitches that stalled enrollment in the key program of the new healthcare law.

It also came with fears that scam artists will be cashing in on the confusion surrounding the law, as some 500,000 uninsured Hoosiers start shopping for the healthcare coverage that most will soon be required to carry.

The Indiana Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau are among the officials and organizations urging residents to be on the lookout for fraudsters using a battery of tools, from fake websites to “robo” phone calls, to get personal and banking information that can be used to commit financial crimes and identity theft.

“The risk of scammers here is super high,” said Abby Kuzma, director of consumer protection for the attorney general’s office.

Prompting the warnings is the opening of the “online marketplace,” the federal insurance exchange where the uninsured can register and shop for healthcare coverage. Tuesday’s opening of online enrollment through the website, www.healthcare.gov, was bumpy as millions of users jumped online.

At a “town hall” meeting Monday in Indianapolis — as Congressional gridlock over the law was leading to the federal government shutdown — a representative from the federal agency that oversees the exchange said consumers would find the online marketplace easy to use, and likened it to the online shopping site, Amazon.com.

But others at the meeting said the exchange, and the law known as Obamacare that created it, were both complicated and controversial enough to cause the kind of problems that make people more vulnerable to crooks.

There are, for example, 34 different health plans that will be sold to Indiana residents, who can pick from options ranging from the $100 a month for bare-bones coverage for an individual to close to $1,000 a month for a family of four. There are also tax credits, subsidies, exemptions to the law and penalties for not complying with it that aren’t easily explained.

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