Governor Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway are warning consumers to protect themselves from fraud and to be vigilant of scams claiming to be associated with Kentucky's rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
If Kentuckians have any questions or concerns, they should contact the AG's Office of Consumer Protection or staff of the state's health benefit exchange call center.
On Oct. 1, thousands of Kentuckians without health insurance began seeking information and shopping for insurance coverage using kynect, Kentucky's health benefit marketplace created to provide simple, one-stop shopping for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance.
Unfortunately, scammers have seen this as an opportunity to try to collect consumers' personal information or to make false claims.
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees kynect, has been notified by consumers of suspicious websites that call consumers after they register information on the sites.
The Attorney General's Office is investigating the websites. On Monday, it sent civil investigative subpoenas and cease and desist orders to the operators of two websites.
"It's appalling to think there are individuals out there who would prey on Kentuckians during this process," Gov. Beshear said. "Everyone should be on guard and report any questionable websites or businesses. There is a lot of misinformation on the Affordable Care Act, which is why we have qualified staff who can answer questions and point consumers in the right direction."
Gov. Beshear said kynect is a secure website, and the call center staff is professionally trained.
Attorney General Conway's Office of Consumer Protection is set up to handle questions and concerns by the public involving matters like Kentucky's launch of the Affordable Care Act. The most common trick is scam websites trying to mimic legitimate government websites.
Kynect.ky.gov is the only website Kentuckians should use to sign up for the exchange, Attorney General Conway said, adding that anything with a ".com" or ".net" address is not a legitimate website for the exchange.
"My office is committed to protecting Kentuckians from these types of crimes," Attorney General Conway said. "If something seems suspicious, do not share your personal information, and if you suspect fraud, report it immediately by calling our Consumer Protection Hotline at 888-432-9257."
Attorney General Conway warns Kentuckians to be on guard for attempts by identity thieves to collect personal or financial information by email, phone or mail.
Scammers may additionally try to sell individuals bogus "discount medical plans" or mislead older consumers on Medicare by making false claims that Medicare coverage is affected by the new law, he said.
The Office of Consumer Protection recommends the following tips for consumers:
• Protect your personal information. Only a registered insurance agent, a certified kynector, or contact center customer service representative should ask for your personal information to help you apply. Keep personal and account numbers private to any others who offer assistance. Don't give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to companies or individuals you didn't contact. Never give your information to someone whose identity you question.
• Make sure you're working with a registered insurance agent or certified kynector. Only legitimate insurance agents and assisters, known as "kynectors," are authorized to assist Kentuckians with signing up for health care. A list of approved agents and kynectors maintained by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services can be found online or by calling 1-855-4kynect (459-6328).
• Do not pay for help. Insurance agents and kynectors will not solicit money. There is no charge to use kynect services, either online or with the help of an insurance agent or certified kynector. If consumers receive an offer to register for a fee, they should hang up the phone or walk away. Consumers should not give their credit card or banking information to anyone they do not know or did not contact. Consumers should be very suspicious of anyone charging a fee in connection with enrollment.
• Remember that you can only get tax credits through kynect. Kentuckians who purchase insurance through kynect may qualify for tax credits to help cut the cost. No one but kynect can offer these credits, and there is no charge to apply for the credits.
• Beware of phishing scams online. Consumers should be cautious of any email claiming to be connected to the Affordable Care Act, including any emails claiming to be affiliated with kynect and asking for personal information.
• Ask questions. Don't sign anything you don't fully understand, and verify the answers you get with trained kynect representatives.
If people do think their personal information has been compromised, they can visit www.ag.ky.gov. The Attorney General's website contains information about protecting your personal identity and an identity theft toolkit.
Kynect is a program run by the Kentucky Office of the Health Benefit Exchange within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Federal law requires each state to have an online health insurance marketplace to ensure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare.