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Watch out for marketplace website lookalikes

Watch out for marketplace website lookalikes

One day after the Health Insurance Marketplaces opened up, traffic is still heavy. Healthcare.gov, the portal to 36 marketplaces, has taken to parking visitors on a holding page where they can wait their turn to log in. We tried it several times today and never succeeded in getting through.

As we said yesterday, the best strategy is simply to wait a week or two for the initial traffic to die down. If you need coverage to start on Jan. 1, you have until Dec. 15 to sign up for it.

If you simply can’t wait, try the phone number of your state’s marketplace, where you may have better luck reaching an actual human being. Here’s a complete list of marketplace websites and phone numbers.

One thing you should NOT do, however, is guess at the name of the marketplace you’re trying to reach or type that guess into a search engine box, because you may end up at a lookalike site.

For instance, if you type in “healthcare.com” instead of the real marketplace portal, Healthcare.gov, you’ll go to a site that generates leads for local insurance brokers to contact you with quotes. While the policies you’ll be offered may well be legitimate insurance plans, they won’t necessarily be plans available through your state’s marketplace. If you end up buying one, you might be passing up a chance at getting financial help with your premiums, which is available only if you purchase through a marketplace.

Or still worse, ending up with a plan that starts before the end of the year and doesn’t cover all essential types of health care. That’s because until Jan. 1, insurers are still allowed to sell plans with deductibles as high as $10,000 that don’t cover important things like prescription drugs or outpatient doctor visits. If you stick with your state’s marketplace, you won’t run the risk of ending up with one of these inadequate plans.

Got a question for our health insurance expert? Ask it here.

Countdown to health reform

Today is day 10 of our 100-day Health Reform Countdown. We’re getting ready for Jan.1, 2014, when the new health law takes full effect.

See our previous posts:

Day 1: Big changes coming

Day 2: Stay uninsured on purpose? Bad idea!

Day 3: Good news on health insurance premiums

Day 4: Introducing our Health Law Helper

Day 5: Help paying for health insurance

Day 6: I’m on Medicare. What do I have to do?

Day 7: I get insurance through work. What do I have to do?

Day 8: Find your state Health Insurance Marketplace

Day 9: Opening day for Health Insurance Marketplaces

Confused by the new health care law? Try our Health Law Helper. And see our full coverage of health insurance and health reform.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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