ELKHART — The planned rollout of the Affordable Care Act won’t just create a potential new avenue for those without health insurance to get coverage.
It could also give scammers a new means to defraud the public, and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski put the word out to the public — beware. Some fraudsters could use the planned Oct. 1 launch of enrollment in ACA plans as cover to pose as reps from companies ostensibly assisting the public but really trying to steal Social Security numbers and other personal identification data.
“Don’t give them any information,” said Walorski, speaking Friday, Aug. 30. “Just hang up.”
The comments came at a fraud prevention workshop Walorski organized in conjunction with the Indiana attorney general’s office. The aim was to give seniors advice on how to keep from being scammed, and the warning about possible ACA fraudsters was just one of many topics, though it was perhaps the most timely.
The individual mandate outlined in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014, and enrollment in plans under the health care system overhaul starts in about a month, on Oct. 1. Per the mandate — meant to increase the ranks of those with access to health care — many who don’t currently have insurance will be required to get it through new health insurance exchanges.
The federal government has created a website for the public to determine eligibility and access care, www.healthcare.gov. Locally, non-profit facilities like Elkhart General Hospital and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center are gearing up to help the public navigate the application process.
But Walorski, long an Obamacare critic, worries of identity theft — other less scrupulous players calling the unsuspecting public, seniors particularly, and asking for Social Security numbers under the false pretense of aiding in registering for ACA plans.
“We’re going to hear a lot about (Obamacare) in the news in the next six to seven weeks,” said the Republican from Elkhart. “It’s an easy way to pick off your Social Security number.”
SPENDING, SYRIA, DEBT LIMIT
Speaking before Friday’s event, Walorski reiterated her call backed by a coalition of conservative Republicans for a measure to strip Obamacare of funding, a strategy by the controversial health care overhaul’s critics to keep it from going into effect. Federal spending for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 has yet to be authorized, and she and others propose the funding freeze as part of a continuing resolution that would maintain funding for other federal operations.
Walorski also called on President Obama to clearly state his position on Syria, under fire for using chemical weapons in the ongoing civil conflict there. Talk of U.S. military action against Syria is increasing, but Obama needs to lay out the endgame and rationale behind any such moves there.
Syria, the continuing spending resolution and the U.S. debt limit will likely be topics of immediate deliberation and debate when the summer recess ends and the U.S. Congress goes back into session on Sept. 9, she said.
Also on hand Friday was Michelle Mayer, director of outreach services with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. She warned the assembled group about the myriad of means fraudsters use to scam the elderly and swindle them of money. Scammers can be sweet-talking and persistent, but she cautioned against giving phone solicitors Social Security data.
Friday’s event was one of several on the fraud issue that Walorski held across the 2nd Congressional District stretching to late last week. About 20 people, mainly seniors, attended the gathering held at the Elkhart Public Library.