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Atwater: Learn about the Affordable Care Act, but watch for scams

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says he's committed to helping small business owners and other Floridians learn about the provisions of the health care law. But he also wants people to watch out for scammers who are using the law to trying to swindle personal information from people eager to sign up for coverage.

The bulletin Atwater put out today does not criticize the law and is free from the combative tone other Republican lawmakers have used when discussing the Affordable Care Act. Also, it comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott is receiving growing pressure from Democrats to denounce a Department of Health policy keep enrollment advisors from helping patients at local health departments sign up for coverage. Scott continues to avoid the issue.

Affordable Care Act scams are a legitimate concern, as Atwater points out. Companies not affiliated with the federal health exchange that people will use to shop for insurance coverage are running ads on TV and radio and setting up websites that could confuse people, officials say.

The people actually being paid by the federal government to help Floridians sign up for coverage are being trained not to ask for personal information. They don't begin working until Oct. 1 and will be housed at government and non-profit agencies.

Here is the full statement from Atwater:

As we near the launch of the Affordable Care Act on October 1, it is important for consumers to be aware of the potential for scams. Reports have already emerged of callers and other solicitors posing as government agency representatives and asking for personal information or contacting consumers saying that they have been selected as one of the first Americans to receive the new health insurance cards as part of the Affordable Care Act. The Federal Trade Commission reports nearly 83,000 complaints of 'imposter' scams occurred in 2012 alone. Additional reports state that some scammers have gone as far as creating entire false enrollment websites and setting up bogus toll-free numbers.

Consumers can protect themselves by keeping in mind that no one can apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, compare plans or receive any enrollment documentation before October 1, 2013. Anyone who claims to offer an earlier application for coverage is trying to scam you.

For consumers concerned about the arduous requirements of the new law, my Department's Division of Consumer Services has launched a new webpage about the ACA and will be hosting educational webinars for small business owners. For information about the webinars, visit

In addition to the webinars, consumer helpline specialists are available to personally answer questions about the ACA regarding eligibility requirements, the enrollment process and periods, available health plans and qualification requirements for the premium assistance tax credit. The toll free helpline number is 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) and is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with assistance in English, Spanish and Creole.

As your Chief Financial Officer, I stand committed to offer you the necessary resources to understand how the new law will impact your family and your business.