A.G. fears health fraud
10/28/2013 - The Dominion Post. By Ben Conley.
MORGANTOWN - On Oct. 1, the day state health care exchanges associated with President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act opened, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the creation of a new fraud and identity theft tip line.
“With the start of open enrollment, our office remains very concerned about the possibility of consumers’ private information being misused or consumers becoming victimized by scammers,” Morrisey said in a release announcing the tip line.
That wasn’t the first time Morrisey expressed such fears surrounding the implementation of the health care law.
In August, Morrisey was one of 12 attorneys general to sign off on a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, asking for information on how “to better assess how we can protect our constituents.”
Among Morrisey’s chief concerns with the law was the installation of “navigators,” federally funded groups tasked with helping people through the process of becoming insured.
In an August editorial for Fo r b e s , Morrisey said “These groups — and those posing as them — could gain access to consumer addresses, Social Security numbers and medical information. It’s the President’s gift to some of his grassroots allies. And it could be a bonanza for identity thieves.”
Morrisey went on to explain that since the 2010 passage of the health care bill, scam artists began preying on consumers interested in the new law.
“These phony government representatives resulted in more than 1,100 individual complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in May alone,” Morrisey wrote.
West Virginia Parent Training & Information Inc. joined with the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities to serve as navigators in West Virginia using a $365,000 federal grant.
Pat Haberbosch, executive director of West Virginia Parent Training & Information Inc., said the grant was “declined within a week.” She would not say if attention surrounding the attorney general’s efforts contributed to the decision.
While she did not give specifics as to why the groups backed out, she did explain that her organization is “ve r y small,” adding “we could not have done it alone.”
Haberbosch said she felt bad about not going through with the navigator process. She said she planned to have background checks in place.
She also compared a navigator to someone who seats people in a restaurant, using vague information to point customers in the right direction.
“The navigator does not sign people up. They do not ask for confidential information,” Haberbosch said. “The person does it themselves.”
A representative of Morrisey’s office said there have been insurance complaints filed, but declined to give an exact number. Requests for additional information were not returned in time for this report.
Attempts to contact the Center for Excellency in Disabilities were unsuccessful.