Watch out for health reform insurance scams

You can't start buying individual health insurance through your state's health insurance marketplace (or "exchange") until Oct. 1, 2013. That's the date set by the new health reform law, the Affordable Care Act. But scammers are trying to get consumers to sign up for bogus plans in advance of that date—and make off with their money, the Federal Trade Commission has warned.

The agency first warned in May that it had received reports from consumers and other federal agencies that scammers were offering enrollment in individual plans months before the marketplaces actually open in October. Typically the scammers try to get the person to give up money, personal information, or both.

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In a recent alert posted on its website, the FTC urges any consumer who receives a phone call from someone trying to sell them insurance under the Affordable Care Act—or who otherwise observes someone trying to sell such insurance—to report it online or at the toll-free number 1-877-382-4357 (1-877-FTC-HELP). If there's a number on the caller ID or if the caller provided a name or location, be sure to include that information in the report.

To start learning about your choices and get ready to enroll, go to HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596. The line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Beginning Oct. 1, you can create an account and shop for qualified health plans that start Jan. 1, 2014, the date by which all Americans will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine.

—Jamie Kopf

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