R.I. AG warns of 'crooks' using health care ruling to run scams

Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 17, 2012, 10:45am


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Scam artists are using the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the federal health care law to commit identity theft and Medicare fraud, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said Monday.

In its highly-anticipated opinion last month, the nation's high court ruled that the controversial provision of the health care reform requiring individuals to purchase insurance or face a financial penalty is a constitutional tax.

In the wake of the ruling, the Federal Trade Commission has received numerous complaints about individuals claiming to be from the federal government who need to "verify information" under President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including social security numbers, Medicare identification and other personal information, Kilmartin said.

The attorney general reminded consumers this week not to give out personal or financial information in response to unsolicited phone calls, emails -- or even knocks on their doors.

Scam artists, he warned, want a person's information to commit identity theft, charge existing credit cards, debit checking accounts, open new credit cards, checking or savings accounts, write fraudulent checks or take out loans.

"Scam artists can't pass up an opportunity to defraud and steal from hardworking Americans," Kilmartin said in a statement.

"If someone who claims to be from the government calls and asks for your personal information, hang up. It's a scam.

"The government and legitimate organizations you do business with already have the information they need and will not ask you for it."

More than two years after Obama's Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the Court ruled 5-4 in June that most of it is constitutional.

The chief issue was the individual mandate, which imposed a $695 annual penalty on individuals who did not purchase health insurance. Obama's own budget director said in February that the mandate was not a tax.

"The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

Roberts was joined in the majority by Obama-appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Voting against the act were justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The Court's opinion also said that if a state does not comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid, the states can only lose new funds available instead of all of their funding.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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