FTC Blasts Phony|’Health Insurers’

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Health Care One and its marketers are scamming the public by claiming to be affiliated with the president’s health-care reform, the FTC claims in Federal Court. Operating under eight names, the Arizona-based LLC “masquerades” as an insurer and charges up to $100 a month for alleged “discount” services that doctors and pharmacies will not honor, the FTC says.

     “Since 2006, Health Care One has been a seller and marketer of a ‘national healthcare discount program’ which masquerades as health insurance and promises to save consumers money on their healthcare costs,” according to the complaint. “Enrollment is offered at various price points, ranging from $79.95 to $99.95 per month, with a one-time enrollment fee typically around $100.”
     The company advertises its “masquerade” on TV, radio, the Internet, and telemarketing, with the help of submarketers, and operates “under trade names which include ‘American Eagle Healthcare,’ ‘Easy Life Healthcare, ‘Elite Healthcare,’ ‘Global Healthcare,’ and ‘Republic Healthcare,'” the complaint states. The company also uses the dbas “Americans4Healthcare” and “Citizens4Healthcare,” the FTC says.
     The FTC also sued Michael Jay Ellman, the managing member of Health Care One and the sole director of Americans4Healthcare. He lives in or around Los Angeles and has conducted business throughout the United States, the FTC said.
     It also sued Elite Business Solutions and its president, Robert Daniel Freeman.
     The gist of the complaint is that the defendants push their “masquerade” upon uninsured people by misrepresenting themselves as government-backed health-care insurers.
The commercials that advertise the program appear to be emergency broadcasts, the FTC says, and use clips of President Obama speaking about the need for health-care reform. The commercials also use pictures of bald eagles, the White House, the American flag and the Statue of Liberty, the FTC says.
Telemarketers solicit business by describing the program as part of the “Obama/Biden healthcare package,” and claim it can save people up to 90 percent on health-care costs, according to the complaint. “One radio commercial describes Health Care One’s program as a ‘national family health care plan.'”
The marketers’ TV commercials are presented “an ’emergency broadcast’ which ‘interrupts’ regularly scheduled television programming to announce the latest developments in President Obama’s health-care reform agenda,” and are designed to make people believe the government is behind the offers, the FTC says.
Consumers do not know until they pay to enroll, and get “a pamphlet and ‘membership cards’ in the mail” which state “This Plan is Not Health Insurance,” according to the complaint.
     The defendants claim to have “over 900,000 healthcare provider locations,” and that “any doctor in Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s network is also available through Health Care One’s network,” but “these claims are false,” the FTC says. Nor will the doctors listed honor the “discounts;” some doctors “cannot be located because the contact information is incorrect;” and “Health Care One’s purported network of healthcare providers is not the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network of healthcare providers.”
     The commercials also claim that the defendants’ “free ‘national Rx discount card’ will provide savings of ’20-60%’ at ‘over 60,000 retail pharmacies,'” but that’s not true either, the agency says.
The FTC seeks an injunction, rescission of contracts, restitution, disgorgement and refunds.

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