September 15, 2020
OLYMPIA, Wash. – People who have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance should be extremely cautious when considering offers that promise great coverage for bargain-basement premiums, said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. They should watch out for websites posing as the state’s official health insurance marketplace or exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.
Kreidler’s office and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange are hearing from consumers who have been duped by bogus websites when looking for health insurance. Some of these sites are tricking people into sharing their personal information and others are selling plans that do not include key protections.
Wahealthplanfinder.org is the official web site to get information about your health coverage options and learn if you qualify for financial help or free coverage through Washington Apple Health. If you lose your health insurance coverage, you could qualify for a special enrollment through the Exchange if you sign up within 60 days from your coverage end-date.
“The Exchange urges Washingtonians to be cautious about fake health care websites that are posing as Washington Healthplanfinder, Washington’s official health insurance marketplace,” said Exchange Chief Marketing Officer Michael Marchand “To avoid being taken advantage of, we encourage consumers to enroll in health coverage with certified individuals and visit the correct website address at wahealthplanfinder.org.”
If you’re shopping for health insurance and something sounds too good to be true, you should ask a lot of questions and read the fine print before buying. Most plans must comply with the benefits and protections required by the Affordable Care Act.
“Typically, the key protection missing is the one that prevents a health insurer from denying coverage for a pre-existing medical condition,” Kreidler said. “If you don’t have that protection, you could be denied coverage when you need it the most. Make sure to ask questions. If you don’t get a straight answer, that’s a red flag. Check with my office if something sounds too good to be true.”
Tips for avoiding scams
Verify the web address before you buy
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 not sure if you are at the official website, call Washington Healthplanfinder toll-free at 1-855-WAFINDER, or 1-855-923-4633.
Closely examine any offers, especially one that could be a health care sharing ministry. A health care sharing ministry is an organization whose members have shared a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses consistent with those beliefs. These ministries typically provide limited coverage and may not cover pre-existing medical conditions.
Legitimate health care sharing ministries are allowed under the Affordable Care Act as long as they meet certain requirements. However, some bad actors are using this exemption to market health coverage to people that provides few benefits or payouts, while raking in millions of dollars in premium.
Don’t pay for free stuff
The official marketplace or Exchange for Washington state is the only place where you can receive tax credits, subsidies or access to free or low-cost 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 for free, legitimate help
Only people certified by Washington Healthplanfinder or Medicaid to help you enroll should request your personal information during the application process. This help is always free. To find out if someone is certified to help 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.
Report health insurance scams
If you believe you’ve been contacted by a possible health insurance scam, contact the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and report it at www.insurance.wa.gov or 1-800-562-6900.