Maine Bureau of Insurance warns about scams when searching online for health coverage
The Maine Bureau of Insurance on Monday warned customers to be careful when searching online for health insurance, warning that they could end unintentionally up with a policy with limited benefits.
Open enrollment in Maine began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 16, during which time many Mainers will purchase insurance plans.
In a news release, the Bureau of Insurance, which is a division of the state Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, pointed to a recent study by Georgetown University that found searching for affordable health insurance online often results in “lead generating websites” shown at the top of the page.
Such websites ask consumers for their phone number and other basic information to allow an insurance agent to contact them. But the Georgetown study found that customers who get such calls are frequently sold a plan with limited benefits rather than a more robust medical insurance policy.
The Bureau of Insurance said while major medical insurance policies cover preventative services, office visits, inpatient and outpatient services and emergencies, limited medical plans only cover specific ailments up to a certain amount.
The Bureau of Insurance also warned about plans that appear to be insurance but are not. The agency used the example of “health care sharing ministries” that collect contributions from participants to create pooled funds to cover parts of members’ medical costs. These set-ups, however, are not insurance plans and do not guarantee coverage, the Bureau of Insurance emphasized.
Furthermore, some companies may say they are selling insurance but are actually just scamming customers out of money, the agency noted. The Bureau reminded Mainers to be vigilant about giving out personal information online or over the phone.
“If you purchase a non-regulated plan, the Bureau of Insurance may not be able to assist you if the company later does not pay claims as promised,” said acting superintendent Timothy Schott. “It is worthwhile to spend a little time and make sure that you are purchasing an authorized insurance plan from a Maine licensed company.”
If you are uncertain about a company you’re considering buying insurance from, write down the organization’s web address and call the Bureau of Insurance before entering any personal or financial information. The number is 800-300-5000.
Potential red flags when buying health insurance include: the person refusing to identify the name of the company, not providing their Maine license number, not giving you a chance to review plan documents before purchase, insisting that you purchase the plan immediately, charging you an added fee to buy the plan, and requiring that you join an association to purchase the policy.
The Bureau of Insurance recommended that those looking for coverage go to CoverME.gov, the state-run marketplace for medical plans. Customers can also call CoverME.gov directly at 1-866-636-0355.