Snellville insurance agent charged with fraud, forgery

SNELLVILLE - The state insurance commissioner has issued an arrest warrant for a Snellville insurance agent charged with 10 counts of insurance fraud and forgery for allegedly signing up 10 peoples for policies without their consent.

Mary Helen Gray, 52, will be the third Georgia agent to be arrested for allegedly using hard-sell tactics to persuade Medicare recipients to sign up for private plans, known as Medicare Advantage, which costs the government more than the traditional Medicare program, officials said.

Gray's alleged victims were all residents of Annandale Village in Suwanee, a facility treating adults who have been diagnosed with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injuries.

"I think it's despicable that someone would take advantage of these patients and their families in this manner," Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said.

Gray visited the facility last year to do an educational presentation on changes in Medicare, insurance officials said. Through their legal guardians, she sold some patients a legitimate insurance product at the time. Later, she forged their signatures on Medicare Advantage policies, officials said.

Before Gray, two agents in Adel were arrested last month and similarly accused of conspiring to defraud elderly consumers by signing them up for insurance without their knowledge.

Proponents of private plans say they are indisputably good for many older Americans because they coordinate care and may offer extra benefits, like discounts on eyeglasses, hearing aids and dental care, the New York Times reported this week. But federal officials said that the fastest-growing type of Medicare Advantage plans generally does not coordinate care, does not save money for Medicare and has been at the center of marketing abuses.

These private fee-for-service plans allow patients to go to any doctor or hospital that will provide care on terms set by the insurer. In most cases, no one manages the care, the Times reported.

Gray made $4,000 on commissions on forged policies, state insurance officials said. The insurer, Universal Health Insurance Co., later revoked the commissions and canceled the policies. Insurance fraud is a felony with a penalty of two to 10 years in prison or a fine of $10,000.