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North Carolina consumers warned to check on insurers

Bargain shopping isn't always the way to go, particularly when it comes to insurance. As consumers and employers are forced to look harder to find affordable health insurance they become more vulnerable to companies that appear to offer incredibly low premiums but which may in fact be scam companies.

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Consumers should always check with the North Carolina Department of Insurance before purchasing a new policy to be sure the company is valid and is licensed to do business in the state. If the company is unauthorized and unlicensed, no financial safety net exists if they become insolvent, leaving consumers stranded.

Many of these questionable companies offer what they call "health care benefits." They also often offer coverage for people with serious pre-existing health conditions that other companies may not insure.

Some of the companies take payments for premiums then close up shop and leave town, leaving consumers completely unprotected. And people may not realize it until they file a claim for coverage and realize they've been left with no protection and a pile of medical bills.

In other cases, because the companies aren't licensed, they aren't regulated and will deny claims with no recourse to the consumer.

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