The Rise of the Obamacare Scams

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg View columnist. She wrote for the Daily Beast, Newsweek, the Atlantic and the Economist and founded the blog Asymmetrical Information. She is the author of "“The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.”
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Here's the most unintended, and inevitable, result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: the new opportunities it's created for scammers. As a regular consumer of cable news, I've seen hundreds of ads that strenuously imply that the crap medical discount plan they're selling is part of the new health-care law. But since the law took effect, the fraudsters seem to have stepped up. At least one enterprising fellow set up a website designed to fool people into thinking that it was the official government exchange (the government took it down). People are also repeatedly calling around and offering to "help" people enroll for $100, after which the victims are not only out $100, but also their Social Security numbers and other vital information.

This is not in any way the Barack Obama administration's fault; it's just the inevitable result of a big, new government program. But it's worth emphasizing, on this lovely Friday, that you should use to find your state exchange. If isn't working, then you should wait until it does, not Google around for "help" that may be anything but. And remind your friends and neighbors to do the same, particularly the elderly ones. The elderly are the most vulnerable to scams at any time, but that's going to be particularly true with something like this, which requires them to use technology they may find intimidating. If they can't navigate the site, help them yourself, or contact your state insurance office for a list of approved navigators who can.

There's no way to stop Obamacare scams. But we can cut it down a lot if we make its prevalence common knowledge.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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