Tuesday, 12 03, 2013
Allison Gardner Martin
Acting to protect Kentucky consumers attempting to obtain health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act, Attorney General Jack Conway required a company operating a website deceptively similar to the Kentucky health insurance exchange to take down its site. This is the third website against which the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection has taken action, causing those websites to be taken down, corrected or blocked.
The copycat website was kynect101.com, which was deceptively similar to kynect.ky.gov, Kentucky's official health insurance exchange website. In the wake of difficulties with the federal government's website, the Kentucky site has been hailed as a national model. However, some consumers attempting to locate the site through search engines were being deceptively steered to the kynect101.com website instead of kynect.ky.gov, where they were provided false information about their options under the federal Affordable Care Act, including being informed that there were no plans with federal subsidies available to offset a portion of their insurance premiums.
Attorney General Conway's Office of Consumer Protection contacted the owners of the website on November 26, demanding that the site be taken down. The letter also noted that kynect is a copyrighted term and that the copycat site infringed on the state's copyrights.
Google was also contacted and asked to remove the website from Google search results. The site has now been taken down and no longer appears on Google search results.
"Last week, Kentuckians who googled the search term ‘kynect' received kynect101.com as the first search result - not anymore," General Conway said. "I will not tolerate sites that mislead consumers. Kynect.ky.gov is the only official government website and has clear information about the plans and subsidies that are available through the Affordable Care Act."
Attorney General Conway received information about these troubling sites from Gov. Steve Beshear's staff and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Several consumers had entered information on the sites and began receiving harassing calls and emails.
"We commend the Attorney General for this action and his ongoing efforts to warn and protect consumers from fraudulent websites as we continue to roll out the Affordable Care Act here in Kentucky," Gov. Steve Beshear said. "It's appalling to think there are individuals out there who would prey on Kentuckians during this process. Because of this, we ask everyone to be on guard and report any questionable websites or businesses."
At the Attorney General's request, Google has also removed healthcaregov.net from its search results. That site created the misleading impression that it was a government health exchange. It also lacked clear information for consumers regarding how to access the official Kentucky exchange. In addition, a third site, healthcare.com, has made corrections to its site after being contacted by the Attorney General's Office to ensure that Kentuckians will be able to link to the state's official site, kynect.ky.gov.
"I appreciate Google working with us to help protect consumers from these copycat websites," General Conway said.
The Attorney General's Office continues to work with the Office of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange and the Kentucky Department of Insurance to identify unfair, false, misleading and deceptive acts and practices related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Consumers who are aware of questionable practices are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Office at 888-432-9257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS
The Office of Consumer Protection recommends the following tips for consumers:
• 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).
• 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.
• 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.