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FOX43 Finds Out: Picking the right healthcare plan

The Pennsylvania Insurance Commission says it has been seeing more cases lately of consumers signing up for a healthcare plan only to find out it`s either a sca...

The Pennsylvania Insurance Commission says it has been seeing more cases lately of consumers signing up for a healthcare plan only to find out it`s either a scam or now they`re under covered.

FOX43 Finds Out the red flags you need to watch out for while signing up for health insurance.

This map shows the 375,000 Pennsylvanians who are expected to sign up for healthcare coverage under the affordable care act.

Almost 50 thousand of those people live in south central Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman wants to make sure people are signing up for the best plan for them.

"The only place you can go right now and get coverage that you know is affordable care act compliant, meaning it covers your pre-existing conditions, it covers essential health benefits, and all those things that come along with it and where you can also find out if your eligible for and receive financial assistance to help pay premiums is healthcare.gov. That .gov is really important," said Altman.

And that .gov might not be the first option you see while searching online.

A quick Google search of the term 'Health insurance' will show 4 different paid ads before you see the healthcare.gov link.

The Insurance Commissioner warns that some of these plans may be what`s known as a 'skinny' or short term plan.

"My department has heard from a number of consumers who have either accidentally ended up with one of those plans, thinking they were getting the real affordable care act coverage or knew they were getting one of those plans and didn`t understand what those limitations really meant until they needed them."

Those short term plans are usually cheaper and have less coverage compared to Affordable Care Act plans.

They`re meant for people who have a temporary gap in coverage.

"They`re cheaper because they cover less because they have so many exclusions, so many traps that you can fall into," said Altman.

US Senator from Pennsylvania Bob Casey`s office did an investigation into how people ended up with some of these plans.

Often, the report finds - it was when they searched online and ended up with a plan that was not affordable care act compliant.

In one case, the report mentions a man from Dover, York County.

He later learned that the 'short term plan' he purchased did not cover pre-existing conditions, which became a problem after a lens from his cataract surgery 11 years ago detached.'

According to the report, he filed a complaint with the PA insurance department and then got the coverage he needed.

Altman says this is happening too often.

"Fainting and hitting your head, Something you can`t possibly expect. That`s a real example of a consumer. They`ve racked up with bills in the tens of thousands of dollars because the coverage just wasn`t there with those other plans."

Here`s what Altman says should be red flags:

If a plan wants to know your health status, health history or about any pre-existing conditions.

Altman says an affordable care act plan would not do that.

Also be aware of anything that has annual or lifetime limits on coverage.

On the other hand, Altman says terms you SHOULD be looking for are

Affordable care act compliant or minimum essential coverage.

Altman says come the December 15th deadline for open enrollment she wants to make sure people are signing up for the right plan for them and not plans that will cost them tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket because they didn`t really know what they got themselves into.

"This is real. This is happening to people. We`ve seen it and we`re still seeing it."

People have until December 15th to sign up for the affordable care act coverage.

Altman does say that about 80% of people in the marketplace do get some sort of financial help that can help with some of the higher premiums.

There are also plenty of events for people who need help sign up.

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into FOX43 wants to find out.

Send Jackie a message on Facebook or email FOX43findsout@FOX43.com.