California News

Consumer groups monitor Affordable Care Act hiring in California

Saturday, July 20, 2013

California's Health Benefits Exchange kicks in soon amid growing concern that the uninsured could fall victim to fraud or identity theft and other crimes. State officials are worried about new insurance counselors and whether they'll provide the health people need.

About 21,000 people are being hired to enroll Californians in the new Covered California program. Just as the state begins implementing the federal Affordable Care Act to some 5 million uninsured Californians, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says not enough is being done to prevent fraud.

The Health Benefits Exchange, now known as Covered California, will start sending out thousands of enrollment counselors throughout the state in September. They will be asking for people's personal information -- like social security numbers -- to sign them up for Obama Care coverage to begin Jan. 1.

"They can use that to perpetrate identity theft. They can also worm into your confidence and trust and sell you other insurance products and we've seen this time and time again where consumers get ripped off," said Jones.

While enrollment agents will be fingerprinted and background checked, Jones would like to see them regulated like insurance brokers and agents where the bar is set higher.

Covered California insists consumer information will be protected.

"We're going beyond fingerprinting and background checking. I mean, there'll be field monitors out there to make sure that the people who are taking this information are doing so in an appropriate manner," said Covered California Spokesman Dana Howard.

Enrollment counselors will play a critical role in signing up traditionally hard-to-reach populations. Some criminal records for minor non-financial offenses maybe overlooked on applications because of their specific connections to neighborhoods.

"We also don't want to preclude people who have paid their debt to society, who maybe are living and working in the communities now; who, you know, now finally have a chance to really redeem themselves and help their communities get covered," said Vanessa Cajina of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The crimes that exclude applicants from becoming an enrollment agent are being looked into.

Commissioner Jones also criticized the Health Benefits Exchange for failing to have a plan to investigate complaints or fraud. But Covered California says there are already laws in the books it could use to prosecute fraud.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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health, fraud, california, california news, nannette miranda
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