A new surge in fraudulent health insurance plans has left hundreds of thousands of Americans with millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills, according to a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund, New York. Such scams, which tend to crop up when insurance prices are high, typically lure members with rock-bottom rates, collect premiums and then disappear when bills come due, sticking consumers and providers with heaps of unpaid medical expenses. In an analysis of claims from a sampling of just four unlicensed insurers, the study found that more than 100,000 people since 2001 have been left with collective medical debts of about $85 million. The situation is expected to worsen while double-digit premium increases continue. The last wave of fraudulent health plans, occurring from 1988 to 1991, left 398,000 people saddled with a total of $123 million in unpaid medical bills. Read the Commonwealth Fund's issue brief. -- by Laura B. Benko
As rates rise, insurance scams finding easy prey
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