Immigrants warned of Obamacare scams
OAKLAND—Immigrant communities should beware of scammers who try to take advantage of any confusion over how to enroll in Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, which begins on Oct. 1.
Immigrant rights advocates warned that because of language barriers, immigrants could be especially vulnerable to fraud.
“Anyone who charges to help in Obamacare enrollment is committing fraud—enrollment is at no cost,” said Josué Chavarin of the California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose aim is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.
Thousands of Alameda County residents attended the We Connect Health Enrollment and Wellness event in East Oakland last Sept. 21.
We Connect is part of the California Endowment’s “Get Covered” outreach to target and enroll California’s uninsured population, the majority of which are immigrants.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported an increase in Obamacare enrollment scams in the months leading to October. Among the scammers’ common modus operandi are offers to help shop for health insurance for a fee, or claiming that a new Medicare card is needed under Obamacare.
How to avoid scams
The California Endowment estimates that millions of California residents will be able to purchase affordable, federally subsidized coverage through California’s health benefit exchange, Covered California starting October.
Almost two million low-income Californians unable to purchase their own insurance are expected to join Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, under the Medicaid expansion plan.
To avoid being victimized by scammers during the implementation of Obamacare, healthcare coverage advocates give the following guidelines.
Enrollment Assistance is Free—It doesn’t cost anything to have someone help you apply for Medi-Cal or ObamaCare
Protect Yourself—Do not give out your private information, bank account number or any financial details, your social security number, unless you have confirmed a person’s identity,
Verify the Identity—If you have doubts, stop and verify before making any decision.
- Confirm the identity of people claiming to be “navigators,” “enrollers” or “enrollment counselors” for Covered California.
- Verify that the insurance plan is legitimate by calling the Covered California hotline at 1-800-300-1506 or by visiting www.CoveredCA.com
- Confirm the identity of sellers claiming to be “brokers” or “insurance agents” by making sure they are licensed by calling the Department of Insurance hotline at 1-800-927-HELP or by visiting www.insurance.ca.gov/license-status/
What to look out for
- The only authorized website for Covered California is www.CoveredCA.gov.
- There is no such thing as an “Obamacare National Insurance Plan,” “Obamacare Health Card” or “Obamacare Insurance Coverage”
- Visit www.CoveredCA.com or call 1-800-300-1506 to view legitimate coverage options and enroll in health care coverage.
- You cannot go to jail for not having health care coverage.
- If you feel someone has attempted to defraud you, contact your local law enforcement.
- You can also file a complaint with the FTC by visiting www.ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Medi-Cal includes unauthorized immigrants
“The unauthorized (immigrants) are explicitly excluded from Obamacare,” said Chavarin. “However, unauthorized people are eligible for many things (such as Medi-Cal). They just need to be informed.”
Unauthorized immigrants that use Medi-Cal and other eligible health care programs will not be deported.
Unauthorized immigrants applying for Medi-Cal do not have to provide information about their immigration status. Information provided in applications for healthcare programs will be used only to determine eligibility.
Chavarin advises the undocumented to check out local community services. “Look at what resources are available in your community. Some cities provide services for the unauthorized, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.” To find a local community health center, visit www.californiahealthplus.com.
“The California Endowment is doing a huge campaign to draw attention to the undocumented in California and what they contribute to the state,” said Jamie Romas, information officer for We Connect. “Policy makers need to understand that we need to speak to this problem.”
An estimated 2.45 million unauthorized immigrants live in California, according to a 2012 study by Pew Research. California still has the highest number of unauthorized immigrant residents among all states.
Filipinos seek help
Melogin Aquino, 52, of Oakland is a single mother of two children, ages 13 and 19. “Ayoko sana umasa sa ganitong tulong, pero wala na rin akong magawa (I don’t want to rely on welfare like this, but I can’t do anything much),” said Aquino, who is undergoing dialysis and relying on disability insurance of about $1,700 a month.
Aquino came to the We Connect event to inquire about the various options available for low-income earners, including healthcare coverage for herself and her family.
Retirees Nimia Duque, 63, and her neighbor Clarita Cipraso, 70, of Oakland were also at We Connect to inquire about Obamacare and get prequalified for Medicare Part B.
The event provided information for services such as low cost auto insurance, free mental health services, free medical screenings and Cal-Fresh (food stamps) applications, in support of the California Endowment’s initiative to build healthy communities.
We Connect will hold similar events in other communities. Visit www.WeConnect.net for more information.
Subscribe to our global nation newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.