DENVER - The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is warning consumers about insurance agents and marketing organizations using misleading sales tactics to sell health insurance that can leave consumers exposed to large medical bills.“We’ve seen this story before in times of uncertainty - unscrupulous salespeople using high pressure tactics to sell potentially inadequate health plans to unsuspecting consumers,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner, Michael Conway. “What makes it worse is now they’re preying on consumers’ COVID fears and the desperation of the newly unemployed who have lost their insurance coverage.”
These agents, brokers or salespeople use calls, texts, emails or internet ads to try to market their products, and attempt to connect their push to COVID-19 or the coronavirus. They typically resort to high-pressure sales tactics and mislead consumers about what the plan actually covers just to make the sale. Ultimately, many of these agents are trying to sell health insurance products that have limited benefits and do not provide comprehensive coverage, and are likely to leave people stuck with huge medical bills, especially if they encounter a serious illness like COVID-19.
Colorado consumers need to be wary of such tactics. Be careful when answering calls from unrecognized numbers, and if it’s someone trying to sell you something you didn’t ask about, simply hang up. Don’t respond to their texts and avoid clicking on ads on the internet about cheap health insurance or offers that seem too good to be true. Watch out for descriptions of “time sensitive” opportunities that require you to take immediate action, people requesting personal identification information, and salespeople offering fictitious health plans such as “TrumpCare.” And don’t let unsolicited salespeople in your home. Not only are they trying to pressure you into a sale, they are violating the Governor’s stay-at-home order.
Be wary of online solicitations and websites offering health insurance plans, even if you are actively shopping for health insurance, as not all of them are legitimate. In some instances, submitting personal information in response to an online ad can result in a flood of calls from marketers that may not have your best interests in mind. Always read the fine print.
One way to protect yourself is by requesting an insurance agent’s license number. You can use this number to verify the agent is properly licensed to sell insurance in Colorado, and that they do not have any disciplinary actions reported against them. “People are legitimately scared right now and they’re worried about things like health care and health insurance,” continued Commissioner Conway. “But there are legitimate routes Coloradans can take to find information about health insurance or continuing the coverage they have.”
- Currently uninsured Coloradans can enroll in individual health insurance plans (meaning insurance NOT from an employer) during a COVID-19-related Special Enrollment Period that lasts through April 30, 2020. Coverage will begin on May 1. Colorado consumers are encouraged to enroll through our state’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. Financial assistance for those who qualify is only available when enrolling through Connect for Health Colorado. Contact Connect at 855-752-6749 or find in-person assistance through their statewide network of certified experts at connectforhealthco.com/person-help, including appointments with a broker or assister by phone. In addition, Connect for Health offers tools such as the Quick Cost & Plan Finder that can help check eligibility for financial assistance while finding plans that fit consumers’ needs.
- People who have health insurance from an employer should contact their employer or the insurance company to find out what is happening with that coverage and how to continue it if it is being suspended.
- Coloradans who lose their job, or who may lose their job in the coming weeks, and thus lose their employer-based health insurance, are reminded that loss of such coverage allows them a 60-day window to enroll in individual coverage, whenever that might happen throughout the year. See Connect for Health Colorado’s “When can I buy insurance?” page for details.
- Coloradans who are or may be eligible for Colorado Medicaid, known as Health First Colorado, can apply at the Health First Colorado's "Apply Now" page, and can find Medicaid-related COVID-19 information at their “COVID-19 Updates” page.
- People with Medicare can look to “Medicare and Coronavirus: What You Need to Know” for information on how Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans are covering COVID-19 testing and treatment. Consumers can also visit CMS.gov for more Medicare information.
Here are additional resources about other COVID-19 / Coronavirus scams and how people can protect themselves.
- From the Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) - Avoid Coronavirus Scams
- Also from the FTC - Coronavirus scams, Part 2
- From the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) - Identifying and Avoiding COVID-19 Scams - Working from Home?
- Also from the NAIC - Tips to Protect Yourself Against COVID-19 Scams
About the Division of Insurance:
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues. Visit dora.colorado.gov/insurance for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745.
DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 800-886-7675.