In today’s fast paced world, business owners don’t often have the time to thoroughly check out the companies they rely on to provide goods and services. In many cases, a determination of product/service quality can be made at the time goods are delivered or services are rendered. If goods or services do not meet expectations, there is often an immediate remedy available. For example, poor quality goods can be shipped back to the supplier and/or payment for services can be withheld until services are satisfactorily rendered.

Unfortunately, business owners do not always purchase items that are tangible items, in the sense that they can immediately determine the quality of the goods and/or services at the time of purchase. One example of such a purchase is health insurance. Since health insurance is not usually used immediately after purchase, the quality of care or the legitimacy of the policy may not even come into play until the business owner, or a family member, actually needs to have medical treatment. This is one of the primary reasons that many companies, often appearing legitimate, can get away with selling bogus health insurance coverage to unsuspecting business owners.

In most cases, fraudulent health insurance policies are sold to business owners by telemarketers or “agents” through bogus Associations and Unions. In that, the buyer must join a professional and/or trade association or become a union member to qualify for health insurance. In fact, in a study published by the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) in 2004, the GAO found that association schemes ranked at the top of the marketing methods followed by bogus health insurers. According to the report, “Employers and Individuals Are Vulnerable to Unauthorized or Bogus Entities Selling Coverage, between 2000 and 2002, the U.S. Department of Labor and state insurance regulators identified 144 unauthorized entities selling health insurance unlawfully. These entities defrauded 15,000 employers and more than 200,000 policyholders out of $252 million.”

However, it is important to mention that many individual and group health insurance products are endorsed by reputable Associations, such as the ARRP and the American Bar Association and, many reputable Unions, such as the AFLCIO and the Teamsters. These organizations have long been recognized for bringing a common class of professionals or citizens together for other purposes that have very little to do with health insurance. Membership commonly includes a wide range of other benefits in addition to discounted health insurance. Typically, the organizations have a governing organization, a constitution and bylaws, a set of officers, voting rights, regular membership meetings and a professional code of conduct.

Unfortunately, most individuals do not find out that they were making hefty monthly payments or premiums to fraudulent Associations or Unions until they have a severe condition that requires medical treatment. Usually, it isn’t until after they receive treatment that they receive notice from their medical provider that the claim that was submitted to the insurance company was denied and that all the medical charges that were incurred are now their responsibility.

Often, the scheme starts when business owners are contacted by telephone or approached by someone who claims to represent a certain, official sounding, Association or life insurance Union. The business owner is then informed that if s/he becomes a member of the Association or joins the Union, s/he could qualify for a low cost group or individual health insurance plan. Typically the Association or Union is promoted to represent self-employed individuals and small business owners. The low cost health insurance is usually presented as one of the many “perks” that the business owner can qualify for, in addition to many other “member” benefits, like discounts on other services, such as dental, eyeglasses, office supplies, hotels, rental cars, etc.

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