LITTLE ROCK — Scammers are likely to try to take advantage of the public when guides begin helping people enroll in the new health insurance exchange, state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said Tuesday.
"They’ll come out of the woodwork," Bradford said at a joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on insurance and commerce. "We’ve all got to be conscious of that."
Bradford told legislators that the real guides, about 500 people who will be contracted by various organizations and paid with federal grant money, will be trained and certified by the state, but some uncertified people likely will claim falsely to be guides. Scammers typically strike whenever big changes occur in federal health insurance programs, he said.
"They’ll tell some unknowing person that they represent the Affordable Care Act and they’ll want to get personal information, which is not appropriate," he told reporters after the meeting. "Also, they might want to collect a premium. … (Authentic) guides will never take a premium. They never recommend a specific company."
Bradford said the state Insurance Department will work to educate Arkansans on how to protect themselves from fraud.
"We’re going to warn people that they’ve got to check the credentials of these guides," he said. "They will be licensed and credentialed and they’ll have those credentials on their persons at all times while they’re working. So you’ll see some education process through the media saying, ‘Beware. Be sure you’re talking to someone who is a licensed guide.’"
Training for the guides is being provided through the state’s 22 community colleges, also with federal funding. Cynthia Crone, health benefits exchange partnership director for the Insurance Department, told the legislative panel Tuesday that 100 guides have completed the first phase of training.
Enrollment in the exchange, a marketplace where people and small businesses can shop for insurance plans that suit their needs, is to begin Oct. 1 for coverage that will begin Jan. 1.
The federal Affordable Care Act requires the creation of an exchange in every state. Arkansas has elected to operate its exchange in partnership with the federal government.
Five insurance companies have applied to offer medical plans and six companies have applied to offer dental plans through the Arkansas exchange.
The companies that have applied to sell medical plans are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield; the national Chicago-based Blue Cross Blue Shield; Celtic Insurance Co. of St. Louis; Qual Choice of Arkansas; and United Security Life and Health Insurance Co. of Bedford Park, Ill.
The companies that have applied to sell dental plans are Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield; Best Life and Health Insurance Co. of Irvine, Calif.; Delta Dental of Arkansas; Dentegra Insurance Co of San Francisco; New York-based Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America; and Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. of Fort Wayne, Ind.
Crone told the panel Tuesday that three other insurance companies may apply to offer dental insurance through the exchange.