Americans seeking cheaper healthcare online may run into hazards - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Americans seeking cheaper healthcare online may run into hazards

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

While its first month online has been shaky, millions are expected to purchase insurance through the federal healthcare exchange's website.

But thousands --  up to 1 in 6 Americans according to The Washington Post -- may be more likely to strike out on their own and search for better deals on the Internet.

Loretta Coleman is one of those folks. She came to us last month convinced she had gotten a raw deal with her insurance policy. Like many concerned over the new health care law, Coleman had been searching online for cheap health insurance and she thought she'd found the deal of a lifetime. But what she paid for was far from what she needed.

A career as a public servant left Coleman in rough shape.

"I've had seven surgeries in fifteen months. Five on my right knee and two on my left," said Coleman.

So after she retired earlier this year, she knew she'd need an insurance plan she could afford on her limited income.

"I went on the Internet, and I just searched for affordable health insurance," said Coleman.

Internet searches for terms like "cheap health insurance" have increased up to 130 percent in the past few months, according to Google trends.

"I found one particular company that said that they were a part of Companion Life, and they talked to me on the phone, pretty much verified what I saw on the Internet. So I signed up for it," said Coleman.

But Coleman didn't read the fine print. That policy under Companion Life only included roughly three visits to the doctor per year, a maximum emergency room benefit of $300 per year, and just $3,000 for her yearly surgical benefit.

"Oh, they lied on the phone, and when I got the packet it was totally different, and that is when I called them back and I said, 'What you all told me is not what is in this packet,'" said Coleman.

Coleman began researching the company she purchased her policy from, and she found they weren't just selling insurance.

"That website is a third-party, discount website," said Juliana Harris from the state Department of Consumer Affairs. "You can get a variety of discounts for pets, travel, etc."

Companion Life has verified Coleman's plan is indeed a legitimate , but representatives say it's more suited to parttime or seasonal workers.

"You have so many people who are looking for an easy way out, and sadly to say scammers are going to be right at their front door," said Harris.

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