From the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

When you buy health insurance, you're buying the peace of mind of knowing that medical bills will be paid. But what if the plan is bogus? As crimes go, health insurance swindlers aren't likely to make anyone's most wanted list--unless, of course, you happen to be among their victims. These scammers typically target small businesses and their employees, often collecting millions of dollars in premiums and vanishing when claims start coming in.

With health insurance costs rising, so are opportunities for con artists selling what appear to be affordable health plans. How can you make sure you don't become a victim of a fraudulent plan? Jeanne Salvatore, vice president for consumer affairs with the Insurance Information Institute in New York City, offers these tips:

  • Check with your state insurance department to verify that both the insurer and the agent are licensed to do business in your state. Be suspicious of any company claiming to be exempt from state licensing requirements.
  • Check the insurer's rating with A.M. Best, Moody's or Standard & Poor's. If you don't have access to these rating services, contact another insurance agent--the one who handles your personal auto or home policies--and ask him or her to do the research.
  • Ask for and check references from other policyholders.
  • Find out if your industry trade association has information on good health insurance companies--but check them out before you buy.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a business writer in Orlando, Florida.