CHICAGO — — Background checks have turned up three felons trying to get certified to help Illinoisans sign up for health insurance, state regulators told a governor's task force Tuesday.
The state denied certificates to the felons, bouncing them out of a program meant to guide people through the new insurance options available under President Barack Obama's health law.
Illinois authorities also have shut down a suspicious Florida operation that may have been a scheme to gather personal information from Illinois residents for illegal purposes. That investigation is ongoing.
"My biggest fear is identity theft," said Illinois Department of Insurance Deputy Director Jim Stephens. "We were fearful (the Florida operation) was going to be identity theft and we think we've confirmed that it isn't."
Stephens spoke to Gov. Pat Quinn's Health Care Reform Implementation Council, which was meeting Tuesday via teleconference in Chicago and Springfield.
He didn't address concerns that have arisen over incomplete security testing of the federal HealthCare.gov website, which serves 36 states, including Illinois. The Obama administration insists the website is secure.
In California, authorities have pulled the plug on several websites they said misled consumers into thinking they were affiliated with the state's insurance marketplace.
Stephens said Tuesday that a confusing lookalike Illinois website had been shut down, but the website address he mentioned — GetCoveredIL.com — still was operating when checked by a reporter on Tuesday evening. The state's legitimate health insurance site has a similar name: GetCoveredIllinois.gov.
State officials later said they had tracked down the licensed insurance broker who's behind the lookalike site on Monday when he agreed to shut it down. "This has apparently not been fully implemented," Quinn spokesman Mike Claffey said by email Tuesday evening, acknowledging the Bloomington broker's confusing site was still running. "We will be back in touch with him to follow up."
In Illinois, there have been no substantiated complaints about the legitimate trained counselors who are helping people sign up for health insurance, Stephens said. They must pass a background check to be certified to do the work. The insurance department has certified 974 trained counselors and 519 insurance agents and brokers so far.
Stephens said people can report fraud or suspicious activity to the insurance department. The department also has a tool on its website where people can look up an outreach worker by name to make sure they have the proper certification.