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Just a little over a month ago, the new federal health insurance marketplace opened in Texas for business. The Marketplace is giving Texans a new way to shop for health care, with tools to help consumers find the plan that’s right for them and financial help available so that paying for coverage doesn’t break the bank. All plans will have comprehensive coverage, and no-one will be turned away due to a pre-existing condition.

Any new program this large can be confusing for people at first, and scam artists and unscrupulous business ventures may try to take advantage of that confusion to rip off consumers.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, be sure to check out these top tips for protecting yourself from fraud, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. Beware of:

  • People asking for money to enroll you in Marketplace or "Obamacare" insurance. Legitimate enrollment assisters will NOT ask for money.
  • High-pressure visits, mail solicitations, e-mails, and phone calls from people pretending to work for the government. No one should threaten you with legal action if you do not sign up for a plan. Always ask for identification if someone comes to your door.
  • People you did not contact who request personal information. They may be trying to steal your identity. No one from the government will call or email you to sell you an insurance plan or ask for personal identifying information. Be careful when giving out personal information, such as credit card, banking, or Social Security numbers.
  • Sham websites. Always look for official government seals, logos or website addresses.

For more information about the Marketplace, check their website www.healthcare.gov or call their help line: 1-800-318-2597. Report any suspected fraud to the Marketplace Consumer Fraud Division at 1-800-318-2596.

Here at TexPIRG, we’re excited about the Marketplace’s potential to make health care work better for Texas consumers. We’ve already seen how competition on the new marketplace can help bring down premium costs, and we expect more progress in this area as the Marketplace begins to leverage the buying power of hundreds of thousands of Texans to get a better deal on coverage.

But be careful to follow these tips to make sure that what you’re getting is the real deal.

Be sure to check out our student guide So You Need Health Insurance. Now What? Texas Health Insurance 101. Also, check our website here for more information on getting the best deal on health insurance.

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