OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson urges consumers to be on the lookout for websites posing as the state’s health insurance marketplace.
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has received complaints from Washingtonians coming across ads and websites posing as the official health insurance marketplace. It has also received complaints about ads and websites claiming to grant consumers special access to the health plans on the official marketplace.
Some websites are tricking Washingtonians to get their personal information. Some provide services, but charge for things that should be free. Others are lead generators, making false claims about providing consumers with a simple, streamlined process for comparing marketplace health plans. In reality, these lead generators just sell consumer information to the highest bidder, often to insurance brokers who are not authorized to sell marketplace health plans.
“My office works to protect all Washingtonians’ health care rights,” Ferguson said. “That includes warning individuals about fake health care websites before someone gets scammed. We’ve included some simple tips to spot ads or websites posing as the office health insurance marketplace or claiming to grant special access to the marketplace. If you come across one of them, please contact my office.”
“Customers who need health coverage should be able to easily and safely obtain it, without being taken advantage of” said Pam MacEwan, Chief Executive Officer of the Exchange. “And this is why we alert the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office to prompt investigations of scams.”
Wahealthplanfinder.org, the state’s official website, is used by one in four Washingtonians to obtain health coverage. Washington residents can find, compare and enroll in new health plans. On the website, Washingtonians can find out whether they qualify for free or low-cost coverage.
However, some scammers appear to be posing as the official marketplace or claiming to offer consumers special access to marketplace health plans to sell Washingtonian’s private information. These websites claim to offer consumers a simple way for the consumer to shop for and compare the best marketplace health plans. In reality, these websites simply sell the consumer’s private information, often to insurance brokers that cannot sell marketplace health plans. Consumers who enter private information into fake marketplace websites, such as social security numbers or birth dates, also run the risk of becoming a victim of fraud and identity theft.
Also, consumers who use websites that are providing services will not get full information about their insurance options, including subsidies or access to Apple Health. The official marketplace for Washingtonians is the only place individuals can access tax credits and other federal assistance. The insurance plans offered by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange are the only plans to have guaranteed consumer protections and coverage, which plans purchased outside the marketplace may not.
To avoid getting scammed, follow these tips while shopping for health insurance:
- Verify the web address of the exchange: The only official web address for the online marketplace is www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Any other site with a variation on the name or with an address that ends in “.net” or “.com” is not the state’s official marketplace. If you are unsure whether you have found the official website, call Washington Healthplanfinder toll-free at 1-855-WAFINDER.
- Don’t pay for free stuff: The official marketplace for the state of Washington is the only place where you can receive tax credits, subsidies or access to free coverage through Medicaid or Washington Apple Health. Washingtonians never have to pay to sign up for free or low-cost health coverage in the marketplace.
- Reach out to free, legitimate help: Only individuals who are certified by Washington Healthplanfinder or Medicaid to assist you with the enrollment process should request personal information to complete your application during a scheduled visit. This help is always free. If you don’t know whether someone is certified to assist you, call the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-WAFINDER. Community volunteers trained by Medicaid can be verified by calling 1-800-562-3022 or emailing AskMedicaid@hca.wa.gov.
Many individuals have complained that they reached the incorrect website as they were attempting to sign up for health insurance through the state website. Some reported entering their private information to sign up for health insurance, not realizing they were providing that information to someone outside of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. These individuals often received unexpected calls from a company or individual not associated with the state marketplace after signing up through these websites.
To report an ad or website posing as this official site or a website claiming to offer special access to marketplace health plans, file a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General's Office. To report an insurance agent, agency, or other licensee for misrepresentations or fraudulent, deceptive, or coercive activity, file a complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com