With consumers still confused about the federal health law and how it might affect their insurance coverage, a consumer group warned Thursday that it's prime time for scammers to strike.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota said reports are coming in from across the nation of consumers receiving phone calls telling them they need to provide personal or financial information to receive health coverage or to keep the coverage they currently have. Some consumers have been threatened with fines for not having health insurance.
Don't be bullied, said officials at the Better Business Bureau (BBB), based in Burnsville.
"These scammers know the harder they come at people, the more danger they add to the equation, the greater the likelihood they'll succeed," BBB spokesman Dan Hendrickson said. "Seniors so often are a target. They're home and they have these nest eggs."
More than 4 in 10 Americans remain confused about the status of the law, with 13 percent believing it has been repealed or overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to an Aug. 28 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.
According to the poll, about half of the public still say they don't understand how the law, often referred to as Obamacare, will affect them and their family.
Hendrickson said he didn't know of any specific scams targeted at Minnesotans, but that fraudulent schemes likely will increase as the Oct. 1 launch date nears for Minnesota's new online health insurance exchange, known as MNsure.
The MNsure website will be a new way to comparison-shop among various health plans and for Minnesotans with low and moderate incomes to determine eligibility for programs or discounts that might lower the cost of buying health coverage.
It will be used by those on public programs, business owners with 50 or fewer full-time employees and individuals who buy directly through brokers or the insurance companies.
MNsure will not be used by those who get insurance at work or by seniors on Medicare. Medicare cards will not be affected.
Radio and television ads for MNsure began airing statewide on Wednesday, featuring tongue-in-cheek mishaps involving folklore legends Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
All Minnesotans will have to have insurance by March 31, 2014, or pay a penalty. The fine will be assessed on income tax forms due in April 2015, not through a phone call asking for credit cards.
As with changes to Medicare Part D, research shows that once big programs roll out there's less confusion among the public and the fraudulent activity subsides, the BBB's Hendrickson said.