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A group of Vietnamese immigrants living in a rural fishing village outside of Houston knew they needed health care coverage. They didn’t speak English, didn’t know how to get insurance and didn’t know where to go for help.
They did know one thing, though— if they didn’t get health insurance in time, they would have to pay a penalty on their tax return in 2014. A key part of the Affordable Care Act is the national law that says nearly everyone must have health insurance.
They found someone to help them and the woman only charged them $200 each for help with insurance shopping. However, that’s a process that should be free. It was a health insurance scam.
In the end, they didn’t even get health insurance. All they got was ripped off.
They aren’t the only victims of health insurance scam artists who charge people for a service that should be free. It’s happening across the country.
Bottom line: Never pay anyone just to get help buying health insurance. That would be like paying a sales person to help you browse the racks of clothes. Just like you shouldn’t have to pay for shopping until you actually purchase your shoes, you shouldn’t have to pay for health insurance until you are enrolled in a plan. Then the money you pay toward the monthly fee, or premium, for the health insurance policy.
No New VictimsWe’re sharing information on how to protect yourself from health insurance scams and a Houston Vietnamese nonprofit organization is working to make sure no one else becomes a victim of this health insurance scam.
“They told us in detail what happened to them so we could quickly go on television to get the message out,” said the program coordinator for the nonprofit organization. “We said no matter what you read or anybody says, never, ever pay to get ‘help’ to get into the online health exchange systems where you shop for coverage.” The coordinator asked that the group not be named to protect the privacy of the immigrant victims.
Who ripped off the unsuspecting Vietnamese fishermen?
“In a way, this is the saddest part of the story,” the program coordinator says. “It’s a legitimate local insurance company that just decided to take advantage of some vulnerable and poorly informed people.”
It’s unfortunate that innocent people become victims, but that’s why it’s important to be better aware on how con artists use health insurance scams to pick your pocket.
Do you know anyone who has struggled with a health insurance scam? Share the story with us.
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