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With forty seven million Americans without health insurance, the FTC and approximately twenty state law enforcement officials are announcing a crackdown on those who target unemployed, uninsured and underinsured people. The medical discount plans that are fraudulently marketed as discount health insurance plans has resulted in millions of dollars being scammed from unsuspecting or desperate Americans who face health crises, says lawyer and founder A. Harrison Barnes. The problem continues to grow and a recent surge in complaints has prompted government officials to move forward in their investigations.

This is certainly one legal battle that will be closely monitored in the coming months.

At its core, the sweep is focused on those health cards that promise affordable doctors visits and prescriptions, as well as flat rates for certain medical procedures and/or tests. It’s estimated up to four million Americans have purchased these health care discount cards only to discover when they try to use them that their physician’s offices, hospitals or medical facilities do not accept them. Some of the advertisements might read as:

Affordable Health Care Plan! Pre existing conditions? No problem! No deductible or co pays! Thousands of providers in our PPO network! Discounts up to 60%!

It’s easy to understand why so many continue to get swept into these false advertisements. The more desperate we are, the more prone we are to fall prey to such unethical practices, says A. Harrison Barnes. “Attorneys, for years, have tried to rein in some of these fraudulent companies, be there medical discount plans or roofing contractors”, says the founder.

So what can consumers do in the meantime? A. Harrison Barnes offers a few tips that include asking for a list of providers who participate in a particular plan. If a company refuses to do so, consider contacting your attorney or the Better Business Bureau. Another plan of action many lawyers, including Barnes, suggest is that you ask for a web address where you can gather more information and possibly forward to your physician or dentist. Also, these companies are legally bound to provide details. It’s the consumer’s right to ask for them and if they refuse, report them.

Finally, Barnes reminds consumers that sometimes, a legal course of action is the only remedy. As the FTC and its attorneys continue to work out the details on how the sweeps will occur, it’s up to consumers and their lawyers to ensure their interests are protected.

More attorneys are choosing legal careers that are in the consumer protection sector. It is little wonder since there appears to be an explosion of scams in this country. From Hurricane Katrina scams that swept the southeast in 2005 and 2006 to the current efforts to take advantage of families who are struggling with medical illnesses, there appears to be a growing problem with no easy solutions at the ready.

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