Sales calls hassle some seeking health care coverage

Shopping healthcare.gov and lookalike sites triggers marketing calls, consumers say
by Paula Burkes Modified: November 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm •  Published: November 19, 2013
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A 62-year-old with no medical insurance, James Cox, of Henryetta, has no complaints about access to the new online marketplace healthcare.gov. He was able to register on Oct. 1, the first day of open enrollment, he said.

The trouble, Cox said, is he's been bombarded with phone calls every time he's logged off the website.

He has been confronted with sales pitches by people phoning from as far away as Florida or within his local exchange peddling products that don't meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said. Or the products are compliant with new federal rules, but quoted at double the premiums displayed on the official website, he said.

“Will this work for you? Will you buy this today?” is a typical offer, he said.

Cox, a salesman who is generally healthy and has done without insurance since he retired from education in 2003, thinks it's awful vendors seem to have access to the government website and that “they're trying to sabotage the new health reform laws. It feels like a conspiracy — the very stuff the ACA is trying to get away from,” he said.

Do you smoke?

He said he became suspicious when callers asked him how much he weighed and if he smoked. When he pointed out pre-existing conditions are irrelevant under the ACA, he was told that it's much cheaper to buy noncompliant policies that require underwriting and carry lifetime caps.

“You don't want to pay for maternity care,” Cox was told. To which he responded, “I don't have diabetes, heart disease or cancer either, but I want to be covered if I get them.”

When consumers fill out their online marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards, a federal government spokesman said Tuesday.

Beth Peters, a spokeswoman for GlobalHealth, said the company sells only ACA-compliant plans on the exchange, and didn't sell individual plans before health reform.

Unwanted calls

Kelly Collins, spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department, said her agency has received no complaints about high-pressure sales calls related to consumers who set up accounts on healthcare.gov. “But we have gotten reports of consumers searching for plans on other websites who then received those types of calls,” Collins said.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Site needs work, Sebelius says

— The HealthCare.gov website will still be a work in progress beyond the end of the month, Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday, appearing to soften a promise that the site will be working by then for the vast majority of users. “The 30th of November is not a magic go, no-go date. It is a work of constant improvement. We have some very specific things we know we need to complete by the 30th and that punch list is getting knocked out every week,” Sebelius told The Associated Press. Sebelius made stops in Orlando and Miami on Tuesday to address the fallout over the new health care law's paltry enrollment figures and continuing website problems.

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