Health Advice



Rising complaints of unauthorized Obamacare plan-switching and sign-ups trigger concern

Julie Appleby, KFF Health News, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Wu did not provide, however, a tally of just how many have been sanctioned.

Low-income consumers are often targeted, possibly because they qualify for zero-premium plans, meaning they might not know they’ve been switched or enrolled because they aren’t paying a monthly bill.

Also, rules took effect in 2022 that allow low-income residents to enroll at any time of the year, not just during the annual open enrollment period. While the change was meant to help people who most need to access coverage, it has had the unintended effect of creating an opportunity for this scheme to ramp up.

“There have been bad apples out there signing people up and capturing the commissions to do so for a while, but it’s exacerbated in the last couple of years, turning it from a few isolated incidents to something more common,” said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.

Many victims don’t know they’ve been switched until they try to use their plans — either because agents changed the policy without talking to them or because the consumer unknowingly enrolled by responding to online advertisements promising gift cards, government subsidies, or free health insurance.

The challenge now is how federal regulators and their counterparts in the states can thwart the activity without diminishing enrollment — a top priority for the marketplace. In fact, Obamacare’s record-breaking enrollment figures are being touted prominently in President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.


Thwarting the switches “really comes down to oversight and enforcement,” Corlette said. “As soon as regulators identify someone who is engaged in unauthorized plan-switching or enrollment, they need to cut them off immediately.”

That isn’t simple.

For starters, consumers or their agents must report suspected problems to state and federal regulators before investigations are launched.

Such investigations can take weeks and states generally don’t have access to complaints until federal investigators finish an inquiry, state regulators complained during the NAIC meetings.


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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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