By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – October 1 is the launch date for the Affordable Health Care Act’s Insurance Marketplace and scammers are ready to pounce.

Polls show that most Americans don’t understand the ways the new healthcare law will affect them. Here’s what you need to know: It will be required for most Americans to have healthcare or face fines.

But, if you are offered discount medical plans, which are billed as affordable alternatives to standard health insurance, you need to know that’s not really insurance. For a monthly fee, you’ll have access to discounts on medical treatment but often no better than what you could get by negotiating with your doctor. There are also scammers out there who are trying to sell fake insurance.

So, how do you avoid being scammed?

First and most important, don’t buy anything you don’t understand. Don’t respond to plans that come unsolicited over email or by fax. Ask for the list of health care providers who take the insurance you’re offered, and then call to check. And go to the website for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud’s watchlist of scam alerts.

It’s your physical health and your financial health at stake.

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