California Shuts Down ‘Fraudulent’ Websites Imitating Its Health Insurance Marketplace

California Shuts Down ‘Fraudulent’ Websites Imitating Its Health Insurance Marketplace

 California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said that she has closed down 10 private health insurance websites that “misled Californians” by imitating Covered California, the state’s official insurance marketplace for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” Harris said. “My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites. I urge Californians to avoid health care scams by visiting www.coveredca.com.”

In September, the California Attorney General’s office began an investigation into websites that imitate the state’s Covered California website (www.coveredca.com). Multiple website operators were sent cease and desist letters informing them that their websites were in violation of state law and demanding the immediate removal of the website or transfer of the domain name to the state’s official exchange.

According to Harris, these websites were operated by private health insurance brokers or companies that were not affiliated with Covered California but that had domain names similar to the state’s official healthcare exchange and contained unauthorized references to the official exchange’s trademarked logo and name. In several cases, websites used the phrases “Get Covered,” “Covered California” and “California Health Benefit Advisers.”

The California Affordable Care Act forbids individuals or entities from claiming to provide services on behalf of Covered California without securing a valid agreement with the State Exchange. (Gov. Code, § 100510.) State law also prohibits solicitations that falsely imply a governmental connection (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17533.6), the use of a domain name that is confusingly similar to another entity (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17525), making or disseminating untrue or misleading representations with the intent of selling goods or services (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17500), and unfair competition through untrue or misleading advertising (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200).

Harris said that, to date, all website operators who had been contacted by the Attorney General’s office had complied, and the following websites had been either deactivated or redirected to the official exchange website:

www.californiabenefitexchange.com

www.californiahealthbenefitexchange.com

www.coveredcalifornia.com

www.shopinsuranceexchange.us

www.shopinsuranceservices.com

www.healthexchangeinsurance.com

www.shopforhealthcare.org

www.taxcreditinsurance.com

www.smallbusinesshealthoptionsprogram.com

www.stateexchanges.org

 Contact the author at smeyerow@optonline.net

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