Mainers warned to be careful when shopping for health insurance online

By Christopher Burns, Bangor Daily News Staff

Mainers who are shopping for health insurance for themselves or their families should exercise caution.

A recent Georgetown University study found that the top search results for affordable health insurance often lead to websites where companies only offer limited benefit plans, often for a specific medical issue like cancer up to a certain sum, according to the Maine Bureau of Insurance.

Such websites ask shoppers to provide basic information and a phone number with the promise that a sales representative will call them back.

What these companies sell doesn’t cover the same range of services — including preventative care, office visits, inpatient and outpatient services, and medical emergencies — as a traditional health insurance plan from a major provider, the insurance bureau said Monday morning.

Other companies may tell shoppers they sell insurance but are a scam to steal money and offer no coverage, according to the bureau.

Mainers also should be wary of health care sharing ministries, which collect contributions from members to create a sharing fund to cover health costs but aren’t insurance plans and can’t guarantee all medical claims will be covered, according to the bureau.

“If you purchase a non-regulated plan, the Bureau of Insurance may not be able to assist you if the company later does not pay claims as promised,” acting Superintendent Timothy Schott said. “It is worthwhile to spend a little time and make sure that you are purchasing an authorized insurance plan from a Maine licensed company.”

The bureau urged Mainers to search for health insurance at, the state marketplace, where shoppers can find plans from major providers like Anthem, Harvard Pilgrim/Point32, Maine Community Health Options, Taro Health and UnitedHealthcare.

Only those plans sold through are eligible for subsidies.

Some red flags Mainers should look for include:

— The person on the phone won’t identify the name of the company

— The person on the phone won’t provide a Maine license number

— You are not given the chance to review plan documents prior to purchasing the plan

— The person on the phone insists that you must make your purchase right away or you’ll lose the deal

— You are told you need to pay a fee in order to purchase the plan

— You are told you must join an association in order to purchase the plan

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.