NU Online News Service, May 21, 2004, 4:59 p.m. EDT – America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, has started a television ad campaign and Web site to warn consumers about the problem of health insurance swindles.[@@]

AHIP President Karen Ignagni announced the effort today in Washington. She was joined by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Montana Insurance Commissioner John Morrison and Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.

AHIP’s new public service ad, “Empty,” shows a consumer having to find $15,000 to pay hospital bills because the phone for a sham health insurer’s help line sits in an empty office. The ad directs viewers to an AHIP-sponsored Web site that gives tips on ways to avoid scams.

Consumers have bought more than 200,000 fake health insurance policies in the past 3 years and ended up with more than $250 million in unpaid medical bills as a result of those purchases, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office.