With less than six months remaining before America's web-friendly health insurance exchanges are scheduled to open on Oct. 1, the con artists, naysayers and dooms-dayers are all busy searching for ways to profit from President Barack Obama's landmark health care reform.
Last week, AARP warned that fraud artists have expanded their familiar Medicare card scam to capitalize on the general public's unfamiliarity with the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, they have a lot to work with; a recent poll found that 42 percent of us don't know that health care reform is the law of the land.
The con works like this: a caller posing as a federal employee informs you that you've been chosen to be among the first to receive a health insurance card under the Affordable Care Act. To get yours, the caller will need some personal data however – including, of course, your bank account numbers.
The scam prompted the Federal Trade Commission to remind consumers that the exchanges don't open until Oct. 1, and "anyone who claims to be able to sign you up sooner is trying to scam you." You're encouraged to report such activity to the FTC at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
The latest political bout over Obamacare kicked off last month when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the Senate Finance Committee. Sebelius assured the panel that the new state exchanges will open on time and the critical consumer outreach portion of the rollout will begin this summer as scheduled.
Unfortunately, it was a minor exchange between the Secretary and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chief author of the Affordable Care Act, that produced the shiny thing upon which opportunists love to pounce.
Addressing the anxiety that some small businesses have expressed over the lack of specifics thus far on insurance options that will be available through the small business (or SHOP) exchanges, Baucus said, "I just see a huge train wreck coming down."
That sound bite was quickly recast by health reform's political opponents into "Baucus calls Obamacare a 'train wreck'," thus taking on a life of its own.
While Baucus later tried to extricate himself from the word snatch, President Obama weighed in on the kerfuffle last Friday, assuring an audience in Austin, Texas that health reform is on schedule and urging all Americans to be patient with the new program and keep the naysayers in perspective.
"I understand the politics of this stuff sometimes," he admitted, "but there are times when I just want people to step back and say, are you really prepared to say that 30 million Americans out there shouldn't have health insurance? Are you really prepared to say that's not a worthy goal? Because of politics?"
Well, America: Are you?
By Jay MacDonald, Bankrate.com
Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters. Follow him on Twitter: @omnisaurus