AARP Eye Center
Shopping for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act?
Type "healthcare.gov," the federal government’s website, into your browser.
That advice is from university researchers who said consumers searching online could unwittingly be steered to alternative plans that do not comply with key provisions of the ACA. These consumers could be “vulnerable to catastrophic medical bills,” they warn.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Open enrollment for 2022 began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 15.
Be careful of search terms
The Georgetown University researchers found that consumers who searched online using phrases like “cheap health insurance” or “ACA enroll” — and visited websites that turned up high in search results — could be led astray by the deceptive marketing of alternative plans.
Alternative plans lack ACA protections, the researchers said. Such policies fail to protect people with preexisting conditions and exclude many essential health benefits, they noted.
Despite such limitations, enrollment in these products has increased in recent years in part because of dubious marketing aimed at people looking for comprehensive major medical coverage, they said.
The university’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms produced the report, which said its findings were in line with past analyses.
“These analyses all reached similar conclusions — sales representatives often misrepresent the coverage to consumers, urge them to purchase plans over the phone without written information, or fail to disclose major coverage limitations,” including limits for COVID-19 services, the new report said.