Imagine, if you will, that you're brand new to the scary world of searching for the right health insurance plan. Floods of brochures and online ads fly in front of your face, but you just want something that's affordable. After furious searching, you finally feel like you've found it: a plan that's not too expensive, and with enough coverage to help out most ailments.
But then you arrive at the doctor's office with a cold or a broken bone. And things aren't as they seem. That wonderful health insurance you thought was there for you? Turns out it wasn't health insurance at all, just a "discount plan" that might save you a bit of money but certainly isn't paying your bills. You're stuck handing over heaps of cash, with your "health insurance" barely making a dent.
Well, stop imagining. The state says that became a reality for Minnesota residents earlier this year, coming at the hands of the New York-based discount health provider Patriot Health and its agents.
From what the state writes in a consent decree that the Department of Commerce and Patriot Health agreed to earlier this year, the company violated all sorts of laws and left Minnesotans with empty pockets.
From the way the state describes it, Patriot Health sold what it claimed was full health insurance under different fancy names: "Health Option One," "GetMed360," "Optimum One." But Patriot Health forgot to add one crucial detail to its descriptions of those plans: It doesn't actually provide health insurance. The company even makes sure to blast the fact on its Tumblr page, which reads, in all caps, "PLANS ARE NOT HEALTH INSURANCE."
But Minnesota residents never saw the name "Patriot Health" under their health insurance, just the names like "Health Option One." So they went along, unwittingly lining the pockets of a company thousands of miles while getting barely anything in return, the documents allege.
Now, Patriot Health has been fined kicked out of Minnesota, forbidden from doing any business in the state for the next two years. But it's a good reminder that next time you fork over cash for a plan, do a little bit of digging first. It may save you all sorts of money in the long run.