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Beware of phony or limited health insurance plans when buying online

Woman said she was out nearly $500 after searching “Obamacare act” and buying insurance
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 10:52 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – What started with a simple Google search ended up costing a woman from Springville almost $500.

Dellia Cooper’s son, Carl, just turned 19 years old and aged out of a state health insurance program. With epilepsy and autism, she needed to make sure his coverage didn’t lapse so she went online to find him a new policy.

“I found them in a Google search. I practically just typed in ‘the Obamacare Act’ and it just gave me different companies to go by, and once I clicked on one, the calls just started coming in,” explained Cooper.

It didn’t take long for her to settle on a plan that seemed to check all their boxes.

“They assured us that his doctors would accept the insurance and so it was also something we could afford in our budget,” said Cooper.

But Cooper said her son’s doctor didn’t accept this new insurance. Turns out, the plan didn’t cover much at all.

“I just wanted to let my friends and neighbors know to be sure, do whatever they have to do, get it in writing, whatever they’re promising you before you give them any money at all,” said Cooper.

Cooper bought her policy off a site that looks similar to Healthcare.gov.

Tori Peyton, a Navigator with Enroll Alabama, said there’s two things to avoid when shopping online for health insurance.

“The best thing when it comes to literally internet searching, if you see anything that says ‘ad,’ anything that says ‘dot-com,’ steer away from it,” explained Peyton.

Peyton has helped hundreds of people sign up for health insurance through the Marketplace. The process starts with creating an account on healthcare.gov, answering questions about your family, income and how you file your taxes.

“Then, you’ll see what plans you’re eligible for,” said Peyton.

She added, “They give you dates for how long you have to get enrolled. And that’s another reason we are here to explain the plans, and what they cover and what they will not cover.”

Navigators like Peyton are not allowed to charge you for their help and they won’t call you to try to get you to buy certain plans.

“That is one of the big red flags is if they’re calling you, it’s not us. We are not going to call you constantly like a robocall. We are not going to do that,” said Peyton.

Peyton also said beware of sites offering multiple insurance providers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and United HealthCare are the only two providers in the Marketplace for people living in Alabama, said Peyton.

WBRC FOX6 helped Cooper get her money back and she now has legitimate health insurance for her son.

The Federal Trade Commission warns against Marketplace scams by reminding you:

  • No one from the government will call you about health insurance, or ask you to verify your Social Security number or financial information. People who do are scammers.
  • People who offer legitimate help with the Health Insurance Marketplace — sometimes called Navigators or Assisters — are not allowed to charge you for their help. If someone asks you for payment, it’s a scam.
  • People representing Affordable Care Act plans won’t contact you by phone, email, or in person unless you are already enrolled.
  • If you’re planning to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, do it at HealthCare.gov. People who try to sign you up elsewhere just might be scamming you.

See more On Your Side Investigations on the WBRC Streaming Apps and WBRC’s YouTube channel.

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