Isaac Belbel, owner of Five Points Health Benefit Plans, has a warning for El Pasoans looking for affordable health insurance: Be careful because there are operators in town offering coverage that doesn’t pay medical bills as promised or meet government standards.
That’s despite a lengthy and well-publicized FBI investigation, raids at a number of vendors’ offices in 2020 and the indictment and arrest that year of Daniel Steadley, on 19 counts of alleged fraud involving individuals who unwittingly bought from two allegedly illegitimate companies.
While neither of the companies was named in the indictment, it was previously reported by El Paso Inc. that the Unique and Unique/Adiuvare Healthcare operations at 6151 Dew Dr. and 3551 Rich Beem were among the locations the FBI searched.
The companies were also named in 2,500 letters the FBI sent to customers and possible victims of the companies’ operations.
The indictment refers to them as “Company A,” a Nevada limited liability company located in El Paso formed in 2015, and “Company B,” a Texas company located in El Paso that was formed in 2016.
Belbel said he’s concerned by the length of the federal investigation and the fact that Unique is still advertising and in business.
On May 26, a federal grand jury handed up a revised “superseding” indictment that added three more counts. It also disclosed previously blacked-out information involving additional unnamed victims and unveiled new details about the alleged offenses.
Unique/Adiuvare advertised that it offered “minimum essential coverage,” or MEC, plans that met federal Affordable Care Act requirements and would pay medical bills in exchange for relatively inexpensive monthly premiums.
Despite the heat of a publicized FBI investigation and federal indictments, Belbel says there are still companies operating in El Paso providing inadequate or bogus health coverage to premium-paying individuals and workers whose companies collect premiums for group coverage.
“It makes it difficult for legitimate companies like us,” Belbel said. “How do business owners know what’s real and what’s not?
“It’s really critical now because this is the enrollment period for individuals and companies looking for medical coverage.”
When El Paso Inc. called the phone number on Unique’s website, a man answered, and when asked about the insurance-type coverage they offer, he said, “We’re not an insurance company.
“We’re a MEC program. We’re a healthcare MEC. We’re not a conventional insurance company.”
Asked if they have the federal credentials necessary to advertise themselves as a minimum essential coverage provider, he said, “Give me just one minute.”
He did not return to the call, but the dial tone did.
No one answered El Paso Inc.’s second call.
Belbel named two El Paso restaurants with multiple locations that were also raided by the FBI in 2020 and have remained with Unique/Adiuvare despite the adverse publicity, questions and allegations against their operations.
Asked how he knew the restaurant operators were visited by the FBI, Belbel said, “They both told me they were raided when I went to solicit their business.
“They kept Unique, which is still operating.”
That also concerns Belbel, a licensed third-party administrator in multiple states, for two reasons – those employees probably aren’t getting what they’re paying for, and he’s worked hard to meet MEC standards and doesn’t like losing business to companies that don’t.
“I don’t understand why the Texas Department of Insurance doesn’t have a cease-and-desist order against them,” Belbel said.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 630-6622.