A new lawsuit alleges Insurance Care Direct (ICD), a health care marketing company based in Deerfield Beach, is engaged in a “bait-and-switch” scheme where customers are duped into buying limited-coverage health care plans they believe are far more comprehensive.
McLaren Insurance Solutions and Maxim Health, based in California, are serving as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in California. The suit was filed against ABS Healthcare Services and Health Option One, which collectively function as ICD, as well as My Agent Solution, an affiliate of ICD.
Plaintiffs say they’ve lost revenue due to the defendants’ actions.
“This dispute involves a malicious scheme by Defendants to surreptitiously prey on the most vulnerable citizens of California and other states — those who do not have access to affordable employer-sponsored health insurance plans because they have lost their jobs, are unemployed or self-employed, or have lost their group or individual health insurance,” the lawsuit reads.
“None of these plans sold by Defendants or their agents, however, are comprehensive insurance plans as implied by the names ‘Obamacare Plans,’ ‘HMO Plans,’ ‘PPO Plans,’ ‘Bronze Plans,’ ‘Silver Plans,’ ‘Gold Plans,’ etc. as promised on their website. Rather, at best, these call centers under Defendants’ control are only permitted to offer limited benefit indemnity plans to consumers.”
Those limited benefit plans are cheaper than regular health care plans. But they also offer fewer benefits, which could leave a purchaser hanging if they believed they bought a standard health care plan.
“Limited health care benefit plans can be right for many people,” said Jim Gale, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “But they are not the same as comprehensive plans, and ICD and its many pseudonym entities simply deceived people through its advertising and marketing.”
Florida Politics has reached out to ICD for a comment on the suit, but company officials have not offered a reply.
The lawsuit links to an image on one of its California based websites.
“We will find you the best Health Coverage at the lowest price. We’ve helped millions of Americans just like you save big on their health insurance plan,” it reads. Below that text are images of several major health care companies.
Plaintiffs argue that and similar marketing efforts lead buyers to believe they’re purchasing high-quality health care coverage.
“ICD used deceptive and misleading marketing tactics to rip people off,” Gale said. “This wasn’t about getting people coverage. This was about ICD making money and padding its pockets on the backs of unsuspecting victims.”
The suit also alleges ICD CEO Seth Cohen was aware of and, in part, “masterminded” the operation.
Plaintiffs allege “ICD has deceptively designated Seth Cohen’s father, Arnold Cohen, as the Agent in Charge even though Arnold Cohen admittedly provides no services to the agencies.” Plaintiffs lawyers argue that Seth Cohen “is using his father’s name to escape liability should insurance regulators ever investigate ICD’s deceptive trade practices.”
The lawsuit also refers to action taken by the Federal Trade Commission in 2018 against a company called Simple Health Plans. That company, also based in Florida, was similarly accused of “preying on Americans in search of health insurance, selling these consumers worthless plans that left tens of thousands of people uninsured,” according to the FTC.
According to the FTC complaints, “tens of thousands of consumers who thought they had purchased comprehensive health insurance found themselves uninsured, some saddled with substantial medical expenses that they assumed would be covered by the purported health insurance they had obtained from Simple Health.”
The ICD lawsuit alleges a similar scheme here — calling it “nearly identical” — and even accuses the company of reacting to that 2018 FTC action against Simple Health Plans. The complaint argues ICD “sought to insulate itself from both federal and state regulators by hiring former politicians to give the false appearance that ICD was a legitimate insurance agency, when in fact, ICD’s entire business is premised on misleading and deceiving unsuspecting consumers.”
The lawsuit accuses ICD of both false advertising and unfair competition. The complaint asks for an injunction against ICD, a removal of marketing materials and a judgment paid to plaintiffs to pay for attorneys’ fees and make up for lost money.
“As we detail in our lawsuit, ICD is a well-oiled marketing machine that takes advantage of people who are vulnerable,” Gale said. “It’s a classic bait-and-switch.”