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Wisconsin uncovers fake ERISA health insurance plans

As the cost of health insurance increases, so does your chance of being approached by fraudulent health insurance companies.

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Everyone looks for ways to save a few dollars, but if a health insurance company offers you a premium that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

"Unfortunately," says Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Connie O'Connell, "this kind of marketplace attracts criminals seeking to sell fraudulent health insurance, claiming that state insurance laws don't apply." The people who buy this coverage pay their premiums and often are left with unpaid claims.

These entities recruit insurance agents to sell Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans or "union plans" falsely claimed to be exempt from state law. Legitimate ERISA plans (plans governed by the federal law) and union plans are established by unions for their members or by a single employer for the employer's own employees. They are not sold by insurance agents. They may or may not be exempt from state laws, depending on each group plan.

You should contact Wisconsin's Insurance Commissioner's office to find out whether a company is licensed to sell insurance in the state and whether the company has met financial solvency regulations. Otherwise, you may find yourself without coverage and facing a pile of medical bills on your own.

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