Robocalls The Never Ending Battle (copy)

This 2017 file photo shows a call log displayed via an AT&T app on a cellphone in Orlando, Fla. New tools are coming to help fight robocall scams.

The Federal Communications Commission recently voted in favor of a proposal allowing phone companies to crack down on unwanted robocalls. With some call-blocking services estimating that 48 billion unwanted and illegal robocalls were placed in 2018 alone, the change is sure to be a welcome one for those of us on the receiving end.

Unfortunately, the health insurance industry is especially wrought with bad actors who bulk call their way to financial solvency. Several industry representatives even lobbied the FCC in protest of the call-blocking proposal.

But I couldn’t be more thrilled to know that these practices may soon be prohibited across the industry. Illegal robocalling gives health insurance companies a bad name.

Health insurance telemarketing ramps up around the end-of-year open enrollment period. Scammers will use auto-dialing programs and pre-recorded messages to generate leads—a term the health insurance industry uses to refer to interested customers.

Except most of the time, these individuals have no interest in purchasing health insurance. Simply pressing a button to “opt out of future calls” is enough to land an unassuming recipient on a contact list that is then sold to insurance companies.

These practices are disruptive, deceptive, and illegal. Yet because the FCC doesn’t have the bandwidth or the enforcement authority to stop these robocallers from harassing the public, the practice continues.

And what’s worse is that the companies that rely on such shady methodologies to capture customers are often unscrupulous in their other dealings.

Consider the storied saga of short-term, limited duration health insurance plans. These plans have been available for many years, even predating the Affordable Care Act, and are in many cases preferable to traditional health insurance coverage for healthy individuals due to the plans’ low cost and oftentimes superior coverage and provider network.

A recent report from the Manhattan Institute found that these plans “cover a significantly larger share of medical costs than ACA exchange plans for the same premiums, and their availability will reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.”

Yet scammers have found success selling these plans to consumers who are looking to purchase complete health insurance coverage. As a result, six states have banned short-term plans, three states prohibit consumers from renewing their short-term plans, and more than two dozen states restrict the length of time for which short-term plans can provide coverage.

It’s an unfortunate outcome for a product that helps expand access to essential healthcare services, including hospitalization, doctor’s office visits and more. If illegal robocalling were curtailed, scams like these wouldn’t be anywhere near as prevalent.

Robocalling harms law-abiding businesses, too. In an attempt to appear legitimate, scammers will make it appear as though their robocall is originating from a major health insurance company ‘like Blue Cross Blue Shield or Aetna.

Call recipients may then provide sensitive personal information in exchange for coverage that never materializes. Companies end up devoting time and money to shut down phony operations and protect their brand’s reputation when they could otherwise devote these resources to providing customer care or better products.

Here’s a radical thought: Insurers who offer superior products needn’t rely on illegal mass calling schemes to preserve their customer base.

Health Insurance Innovations explicitly prohibits all insurance agents, brokers, and companies that utilize our platform from robocalling, and yet our company was recently recognized for topping Fortune’s “2018 Fastest Growing Companies List.” Clearly, shunning the practice does not hurt business’ bottom line.

By allowing phone companies the freedom to analyze call traffic and block bad actors, it frees up the line for companies who actually respect consumers’ time and needs.

At this point, when robocalling has reached a deafening crescendo, it’s time to hang up the phone on this bad practice.

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Jan Dubauskas is the vice president and senior counsel at Health Insurance Innovations, Inc., a cloud-based technology platform and distributor of health insurance products.