The Frightening Health Insurance Scam You Need To Be Aware Of

A health insurance scam posing as Obamacare is cheating people out of large sums of money. Here's what you should know.

By Joseph Farago | Published

health insurance scam

Since the pandemic began, health insurance scams have gone up in droves. In fact, all kinds of online scams have increased in popularity since quarantine transitioned scam artists to strictly virtual avenues. One particular insurance fraud disguising itself as Obamacare has been recently identified, and it’s something the public should keep their eyes peeled for.

Tina Passione, a retiree on her way to move to Suburban Atlanta, was caught in this frustrating situation when purchasing illegitimate healthcare. She found a federal link for healthcare, entered her information, and promptly received phone calls from a few different healthcare brokers. She bought a plan for $384 a month and believed she had finished her necessary task. But when she showed up at a pharmacy in Georgia, she was surprised to find that they could not locate any insurance attached to her name. It turns out that Passione was one of a few people targeted by this healthcare insurance scam.

Instead of purchasing a healthcare plan, Passione had been deceptively instructed to buy a membership to Jericho Share. Jericho Share is a Houston-based healthcare ministry created last year. But for a long time, this ministry went by another name: House of Prayer and Life Inc. The congregation is more than 50 years old and was created as a faith-based group that shares healthcare with its members. Unbeknownst to Passione, she had just spent money on a healthcare insurance scam run by a religious organization.

Healthcare ministries designed to have members split coverage is not a new phenomenon. This type of congregation grew in popularity before the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for needing insurance was revoked. Since this loophole was cheaper than getting individual healthcare, shared coverage became a popular new way to access hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies. Being a part of the ministry also allowed members to get a tax exemption for not having insurance. Unfortunately, these congregations have also been known to create their own healthcare insurance scams, where outsiders are tricked into buying a membership. Only one state in the country, Massachusetts, requires ministries to report their tax data to the state.

Since ministries are not designated as healthcare providers by the United States, purchasing a membership to one doesn’t give you legitimate insurance. The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers find trustworthy charities, gave the Jericho Share an F rating on its website, documenting over 100 complaints about the ministry. Texas Department of Insurance also has recorded complaints by frustrated clients. This Texas government department referred those affected by this health insurance scam to the attorney general’s office, reiterating that ministries are not actual insurance groups.

John Oxendine, a lawyer who was elected numerous times as Georgia’s insurance commissioner, helped release a statement from Jericho Share. Part of the statement refuted the claim that it was a healthcare insurance scam, saying that the group “does not tolerate any type of misrepresentation or unethical conduct.” At the same time, many believe Jericho Share doesn’t adequately identify itself as a ministry. Oxendine also included that the ministry’s subscription plan can be canceled at any time, though many who received a refund stated that canceling their subscription was difficult.