California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Thursday that her office has shut down 10 private health insurance websites that deceptively imitated the state’s official “Covered California” site.
The removal of the sites from the Internet resulted from cease-and-desist letters in which lawyers from Harris’ office told the operators they were violating state laws.
“These websites fraudulently imitated Covered California in order to lure consumers away from plans that provide the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” Harris said in a statement.
“My office will continue to investigate and shut down these kinds of sites,” she said.
California’s official health insurance marketplace, which opened Oct. 1, can be accessed online at www.coveredca.com or by calling (888) 975-1142.
A state law that set up the marketplace prohibits individuals or organizations from claiming to provide services on behalf of Covered California unless they have obtained a valid agreement with the exchange.
Harris said the fraudulent websites also appeared to violate other state laws that prohibit misleading advertising, falsely claiming a government connection and using an Internet domain name that is confusingly similar to the name of another entity.
She said the 10 sites that were removed had domain names similar to Covered California and contained unauthorized references to the official exchange’s trademarked logo and name.
Some sites used the phrases “Get Covered,” “Covered California” and “California Health Benefit Advisers.”
Harris said the operators contacted thus far have complied with the cease-and-desist letters and either deactivated their sites or redirected viewers to the official exchange.