Don't let scams profit from your Obamacare questions

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act -- "Obamacare" -- is the law, but don't let scammers take advantage of the confusion.

Three weeks from today, Oct. 1, new insurance exchanges will open where consumers can purchase different levels of health plans based on common pricing. By Jan. 1, uninsured individuals and families must have "minimum essential coverage" or face annual penalties that increase every year until 2016.

Unfortunately, people are already receiving calls claiming the government requires them to reveal personal information like Social Security and bank account numbers to sign them up for health plans or Medicare.

In fact, the health exchanges, including Nebraska's, which will be operated by the federal government, do not open for business until that Oct. 1 date, so brokers cannot technically sell plans until them.

If you receive one of those calls, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

* Hang up the phone. If you get one of these calls, just hang up. You may be tempted to call back, but this will only give the scammer another opportunity to steal your information. Also, be sure not to press any buttons that the scammer instructs and report the incident to BBB's Scam Stopper or the Federal Trade Commission.

* Never give out personal information. Never give out your bank account numbers, date of birth, credit card number or Social Security number.

* Don't rely on caller ID. Some scammers are able to display a company's name or phone number on the caller ID screen. Don't trust that the information you see is true.

* Get informed. Find out how the health care reform affects you. Visit the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service's HealthCare.gov.

* Get help. In the event that you give your personal information, inform your banks, credit card providers and the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax so that they can be on the lookout for potential identity thieves.

If you're the owner of a small business, a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website at http://eship.unl.edu/healthcare will help business owners understand the Affordable Care Act and its effects on your business.

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010, and some mandates are already in place with more becoming effective in 2014.

A provision that requires large employers to provide insurance coverage or face penalties was delayed until Jan. 1, 2015, but all business owners should be planning now to find the best ways to meet the ACA law requirements.

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