Insurer warns consumers about buying vitamins

(NBC) - A health insurance carrier is warning that a company selling nutritional supplements is really committing insurance fraud. Once you buy, you could end up paying for a lot more than just vitamins.

Insurance company Regence BlueCross BlueShield said some of its members got tricked into buying vitamins and supplements from a company that says everything is 100 percent covered by insurance. Members got their products, and also a bill for services they didn't even receive.

Alex Johnson has seen his fair share of white collar crime -- he spent 30 years working for the FBI. He now investigates fraudulent claims for Regence BlueCross BlueShield and is trying to get the word out.

"They're coming across very persuasive," he says of the scammers.

Johnson is warning Regence members about a California nutritional supplement company whose ads claim their products are 100 percent covered by insurance. It turns out, that's not the case.

"They are basically not a covered benefit," Johnson said.

Once people buy the supplements and hand over their insurance information, the company bills Regence for fake claims.

"[They're] saying they will bill your insurance carrier to pay for your vitamin supplements, and they are billing them under other codes like office, doctor office visits and lab codes," Johnson said.

In just the last month, the insurance carrier has received complaints from members in six states - including Utah - about bogus claims found on their Explanation of Benefits form.

"Total misrepresentation, not going to doctor, not having work done," Johnson said.

He says the bottom line is that vitamins and supplements are not covered by insurance. And members need to protect themselves.

"That's why consumers need to be aware," he said. "It goes back to the old adage. If it's too good to be true, it is. You need to be aware of these types of promotions."

Regence did not say the name of the company because they say they are still investigating. It's possible state and federal charges could come in the future once the investigation is complete.

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