Homeless advocates have raised concerns about out-of-town insurance brokers taking advantage of homeless and indigent individuals by persuading them to sign up for health insurance policies they cannot afford. These brokers, often from Jacksonville, Florida, allegedly approach homeless individuals and offer incentives such as gift cards to enroll in health insurance plans, only to find out later that the co-pays are exorbitant.
Chandra Smiley, CEO and Executive Director of Community Health Northwest Florida, has witnessed this exploitation firsthand. Many of the homeless patients who seek medical care at Community Health’s 22 sites in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have been affected by the actions of these brokers. Leigh Oliver, a case manager with Lakeview Center’s Homeless Evaluation Assessment Response Team (HEART), has also encountered individuals who were approached to sign up for private health insurance plans.
Not only do these insurance policies come with high co-pays, but they also offer inadequate pharmaceutical coverage and distant primary care physicians. As a result, these vulnerable individuals do not receive the healthcare they need. Moreover, their private coverage prevents them from qualifying for Medicare or Medicaid plans that would have provided better coverage.
The homeless shelters in the area have taken steps to protect their residents by banning insurance brokers from their premises. Waterfront Rescue Mission, where Community Health operates a clinic, has also reported banning brokers from their property. Clay Romano, President, and CEO of Waterfront Rescue Mission, expressed disgust at the tactics of these brokers and vowed to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
1. Why are insurance brokers targeting homeless individuals?
Insurance brokers may see homeless individuals as vulnerable and easier to persuade, potentially earning them a commission from insurance companies for every person they sign up.
2. What are the consequences of signing up for these insurance policies?
Homeless individuals who sign up for these policies often face high co-pays and inadequate coverage for pharmaceuticals. Additionally, their primary care physicians may be located far away, making it difficult for them to access the care they need.
3. Can homeless individuals qualify for Medicare or Medicaid despite having private coverage?
No, having private coverage usually disqualifies homeless individuals from accessing the more comprehensive Medicare or Medicaid plans.
4. How are homeless shelters addressing this issue?
Homeless shelters have taken action by banning insurance brokers from their premises to protect their residents from exploitation.