Seniors face rising scam risk as Obamacare launches

Seniors have been sold plenty of lies about health reform since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010. They’ve been told that it will slash their benefits and create “death panels” to weed out those too old and sick to be worthy of medical care; that it will crush the popular Medicare Advantage program; and that government will get between them and their doctors.

Falsehoods, all. But with key provisions of Obamacare kicking off Tuesday, seniors finally have something real to be concerned about: fraud. Consumer advocates and legal experts say they are seeing a rise in ACA-related identity theft and other scams targeting seniors on Medicare.

Medicare is a chronic focus of scam artists because of its huge size and many moving parts. But the ACA also has added a layer of vulnerability, much of it playing off political attacks on the law.

“Many seniors already think the worst about the law, so they’re ready for some of these false pitches,” says Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a non-profit consumer services group.

Consumer protection advocates worry that scammers will falsely tell seniors that they need to renew their Medicare coverage or sign up in the new exchanges, and get them to divulge critical personal information on application forms. They’ve also received reports of fake websites purporting to offer Obamacare insurance policies. The sites often will display an official-looking government seal.

Learn more in my column today at Reuters Money.