Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

Con men prey on confusion over health care act

To the list of problems plaguing President Barack Obama's health care law, add one more — fraud.

With millions of Americans frustrated and bewildered by the trouble-prone federal website for health insurance, con men and unscrupulous marketers are seizing their chance. State and federal authorities report a rising number of consumer complaints, ranging from deceptive sales practices to identity theft, linked to the Affordable Care Act.

Madeleine Mirzayans was fooled when a man posing as a government official knocked on her door. Barbara Miller and Maevis Ethan were pitched by telemarketers who claimed to work for Medicaid. And Buford Price was almost ensnared by another new trap: websites that look official but are actually bait set by fly-by-night insurance operators.

Some level of fraud or abuse is predictable with any big government program, but now the technical failures troubling the HealthCare.gov website, as well as the law's complexity, threaten to make matters worse. Only a tiny fraction of Americans have been affected so far, but state authorities and the Federal Trade Commission are reviewing the issue aggressively.

"With this changing health insurance landscape, there is a new opportunity for people to take advantage of our residents, and we've seen it starting already," said Kate Abernathy, a spokeswoman at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

While it is difficult to quantify the problem, interviews with authorities in states including California, Florida, Illinois and New York suggest that fraud is a growing worry. Websites are particularly difficult to police.

The most prevalent complaints involve older Americans. Under the law, people age 65 and over, who are on Medicare, do not need to buy supplemental coverage. Nonetheless, some marketers are pushing expensive add-on policies by falsely claiming that such coverage is required, state authorities say. Others are telling people that the law means they need new Medicare cards — not true. And still others are charging fees as high as $100 to "help" people navigate the new insurance landscape.

"We are remaining vigilant, since we anticipated that the law was so complex that scam artists would take advantage of it," said Tom Miller, the attorney general of Iowa.

In New York and Illinois, attorneys general are investigating at least two firms that they suspect of fraud, people briefed on the matter told the New York Times. Since October, attorney general offices in 36 states have been holding conference calls about the emerging dangers every two weeks.

Comments
McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

TAMPA — Delanda Walker, the McDonald’s employee who gave police the tip that led to an arrest in the Seminole Heights slayings, received a standing ovation Wednesday during a ceremony thanking citizens who helped in the investigation.Mayor Bob Buckho...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

PORT RICHEY — Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz said it plans to reopen on Thursday and resume shuttling passengers back out to its gambling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico three days after a boat fire forced 50 passengers and crew to abandon ship.The 72-foot...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

Snow, ice and record cold grip the South; at least 8 dead

ATLANTA — A layer of snow and ice and a record-breaking blast of cold closed runways, highways, schools and government offices across the South and sent cars sliding off roads Wednesday in a swath of the country ill-equipped to deal with wintry weath...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa announced Wednesday it is seeking artists and proposals for a big piece of outdoor art for the plaza between one of the $3 billion project’s office buildings and the new building for the University of South Florida Morsani ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

The latest on developments in financial markets (All times local):4 p.m.Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average to its first close above 26,000 points.The Dow had traded above that level on Tuesday but wound...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Pasco opens cold shelters, joining Pinellas, Hillsborough and Hernando

Temperatures are set to drop Wednesday and keep dropping, Tampa Bay. It’s time to take tonight’s lows seriously.That’s why cold shelters are opening in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Goodbye 70s. Hello freeze w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Two Tampa Bay area students among those facing hazing charges in FSU death

Two Tampa Bay area students among those facing hazing charges in FSU death

TALLAHASSEE — Two students from the Tampa Bay area, sons of an assistant chief for the Tampa Police Department and a New York Yankees vice president, have been charged in the hazing death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge.Christopher M....
Updated: 1 hour ago

John McCain: Mr. President, stop attacking the press

After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

DADE CITY — More than 36 million Americans practice yoga, but many people still feel intimidated by the ancient method of controlling the body and mind through physical and mental practices.Perhaps it is the daunting terms or confusing poses that cau...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hernando schools superintendent seeks protection from neighbor she accuses of harassment

Hernando schools superintendent seeks protection from neighbor she accuses of harassment

SPRING HILL — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will appear in court this month after filing for a restraining order against her neighbor, who she said has stalked and harassed her since last summer.In a court filing, Romano brings a...
Updated: 2 hours ago