Rep. Mark Takano Calls for Fraudulent Health Care Website Being Promoted by Republican Lawmakers to be Taken Down
Washington DC – Earlier today, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris about CoveringHealthCareCA.com, a website being promoted by California Republican officials, which features fraudulent, inaccurate and misleading information about the Affordable Care Act.
In the letter, Rep. Takano asks Attorney General Harris to issue a cease and desist letter to the operators of the website as it violates state law which prohibits domain names that are “confusingly similar” to another entity.
“The domain name CoveringHealthCareCA.com is very similar to the state’s official marketplace website,” Takano says in the letter. “Like the other websites your office shut down, the domain name alone could lead consumers to believe they are on the official site, rather than an imposter.”
Takano also points out the sites technical problems, as “links direct visitors to the wrong place, formatting is inconsistent across browsers, and most disturbingly, when visitors submit their financial information to calculate the ‘IRS Tax Penalty’ incorrect information is generated for consumers who would be exempted under the law.”
Takano’s office also received a flier from a Republican state legislator that encouraged his constituents to visit the fraudulent site, instead of CoveredCA.com. The flier states CoveringHealthCareCA.com is, “a starting point to learn how the law will affect [them] and what [they] will need to do to follow it.”
FULL TEXT OF LETTER BELOW:
December 3, 2013
The Honorable Kamala D. Harris
California Department of Justice
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Dear Attorney General Harris:
I want to applaud you for your thorough oversight of websites that are misleading Californians by imitating the state’s health insurance marketplace, CoveredCA.com. Recently, an additional website was brought to my attention and I write to share these concerns with you. I believe that CoveringHealthCareCA.com is misleading Californians and ask that you send a similar cease and desist letter to the site’s operator.
As you point in your release, California state law prohibits the use of domain names that are “confusingly similar” to another entity. The domain name CoveringHealthCareCA.com is very similar to the state’s official marketplace website. Like the other websites your office shut down, the domain name alone could lead consumers to believe they are on the official site, rather than an imposter.
Unlike CoveredCA.com which has been operating smoothly, CoveringHealthcareCA.com is riddled with technical problems: links direct visitors to the wrong place, formatting is inconsistent across browsers, and most disturbingly, when visitors submit their financial information to calculate the “IRS Tax Penalty” incorrect information is generated for consumers who would be exempted under the law.
Additionally, CoveringHealthcareCA.com mixes in misleading political messaging while burying useful consumer information. Example, in the “Young Adults” section, five paragraphs are devoted to claims that Young Adults are “Subsidizing Sicker Adults” and that “many young adults may elect to pay the IRS penalty over obtaining health coverage” before a small note at the end detailing that “Young adults up to their 26th birthday are also eligible to remain on their parents’ health plans.”
Furthermore, it has come to my attention that members of the California Assembly are promoting this website over Covered California. In a mailer obtained by my office, a state legislator encourages his constituents to use CoveringHealthCareCA.com, “as a starting point to learn how the law will affect [them] and what [they] will need to do to follow it.” Recently, your office issued a list of tips to help consumers avoid misleading sites. The very first tip reminds consumers that California has only one official health insurance marketplace, and that is CoveredCA.com. It is the site where individuals, families and small businesses can get information, compare plans and enroll. I find it discouraging that lawmakers in our state are actively promoting an additional website that lacks the comprehensive information and tools that consumers can find at CoveredCA.com.
I hope you will take these concerns seriously and look into the ways that CoveringHealthCareCA.com is misleading California residents. With so many changes in the health care market there will surely be opportunities for unscrupulous characters to take advantage of hardworking Californians. However, I am reassured that in you, Californians have a strong, decisive advocate who will fight to protect consumers. I look forward to working with you to ensure that all Californians have access to the accurate and complete information they need to find quality, affordable health care that is right for them.
Member of Congress