As the debate rages over who benefits from the Affordable Care Act, one thing is becoming clear: The controversial program is a dream come true for rip-off artists. Consumer experts warn that the program has created a huge opportunity for swindling people by stealing their money and their sensitive personal information. "Any time you roll out a big government program like this, confusion is inevitable," said Lois Greisman, an associate director in the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. "This confusion creates a tremendous opportunity for the fraudster." Scammers have been at it for more than a year now, but consumer advocates and security experts warn that the problem will worsen as we get closer to Oct. 1. That's when the millions of uninsured Americans can use a health insurance exchange, set-up by their state or by the federal government, to shop for coverage. "I believe the incidents are going to skyrocket as that date approaches," said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. "And even people who are smart and savvy could get taken, so we are very concerned about the potential for some serious financial harm."
“This fall, Indiana's new online health-insurance marketplace will present some tough choices for consumers like John Nowak, who will be able to pick a plan from his current insurer—or go for one that includes his primary-care doctor. That is because Mr. Nowak's current insurer won't include Indiana's biggest health-care provider, 19-hospital Indiana University Health, in the plans it sells on the consumer exchange. If Mr. Nowak buys a new exchange plan from WellPoint Inc.'s Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, he will generally have to pay the cost out of his own pocket if he sees the system's doctors, because they aren't in the network. Mr. Nowak, a 48-year-old Indianapolis medical-spa owner, likes WellPoint. But he has been seeing an Indiana University-affiliated physician for five years, and ‘when you get a trust with a doctor, you want to stick with them,’ he said. Similar situations are likely to occur around the country, as details emerge about the coverage available through the new consumer marketplaces created by the federal health law. Many of the plans will include relatively few choices of doctors and hospitals. In some cases, plans will layer on other limits, such as requirements that patients get referrals to see specialists, or obtain insurer authorization before pricey procedures.
"Keep your plan, keep your doctor," etc. Obamacare proponents will contend that there are bound to be disruptions and changes for some people under such a sweeping law -- and that these new limitations will help curb premium increases. That may be so, but the president issued repeated promises to the contrary. Plus, the new law was supposed to sharply reduce premiums. The White House slimed anyone who questioned the party line as a lying smear merchant, and now they're feverishly moving the goalposts and hoping nobody notices. It's not working. Obamacare's unpopularity has slid to new nadirs in recent weeks, and the president's approval rating on the issue is very weak. Time for more speeches and "messengers," it would seem.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography