How to Avoid Medical Identity Theft

Between 250,000 and 500,000 Americans Have Already Become Victims of The Growing Crime of Medical Identity Theft

| Apr 26, 2012

Between 250,000 and 500,000 Americans have already become victims of the growing crime of medical identity theft.  Medical identity theft happens when someone uses your name and other pieces of your history, such as insurance information, without your knowledge to obtain medical services and goods.

The ramifications of this crime are widespread. You could be billed for medical services that you never received. You might make a legitimate insurance claim, only to be told by your health plan that you have reached your benefits limit. The wrong blood type or other misinformation could be noted in your medical records. Your history might indicate illnesses that you never had, as a result of which you could be denied health insurance. An entire fake medical record could be created with your name and other personal information in it.  Errors such as these can remain undetected and uncorrected for years.

Medical identity theft is not a small problem. According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims of medical identity theft comprise about 3 percent of the 8.3 million overall victims of identity theft.  Nine million adult Americans (4 percent) believe they or a family member have been a victim of medical identity theft.

If you think that your health information is protected under HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, think again.  Technically, HIPAA, often referred to as the "health privacy rule," gives you the right to access your health records.  If you are a victim of identity theft, however, you could be denied access because your records now contain the private, "protected" health information of someone else, even though that someone else is a criminal.

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to safeguard your medical identity.
Never give your medical information to anyone unless you know with whom you are dealing and you initiated the conversation. Bear in mind that a caller posing as a representative from your insurance company, a federal agency, or your doctor's office can glean a wealth of data. When it comes to your health and medical information, it's smart to be suspicious of any and all callers requesting information.

Guard your medical information with care. Shred all your documents containing medical information before you discard them. If you keep copies of your medical or health insurance records, make sure that they're secure, whether they're on paper or in an online file.  When you use the Internet to access information related to your medical care or insurance, check each site's security policies. Destroy labels on pill bottles and packages before you throw them out.

When you receive your monthly Explanation of Benefits from your health insurance company, check it carefully. Be absolutely sure that you and only you received the treatments and  prescriptions detailed there.

Because medical identity theft often shows up first when a claim is sent to a billing department, obtain an annual credit report.  An unpaid medical bill on your credit report could be a major clue that you're a victim of medical identity theft.

Make the effort to get a copy of all your medical records. Because there is no central repository, you will need to contact every provider, including doctors, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories, and health plans. You will probably have to complete a form and pay a fee to get a copy of your records, and it may take some time to get all the information.

If you believe that you are a victim of medical identity theft, take the following three steps.

1. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

2. File a report with your local police and send copies of the report to your health plan's fraud department and all your healthcare providers.

3. Write to your health plan or provider, detailing the information that seems inaccurate. Include copies (keep the originals) of any document that supports your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your record that you dispute, state the facts and your reasons for disputing the information, and request that each error be corrected or deleted. You may want to enclose a copy of your medical record with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, and ask for a "return receipt" to document what the plan or provider received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

These days, it's very important to keep track of your medical identity. If it turns out to have been stolen, take all necessary steps to get your information corrected. It's an effort, but it could be life-saving.




Sources

World Privacy Forum, 2006

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt10.shtm

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes Health, Health Care, Medical Identity Theft


Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Latest
Popular
Top Rated

Latest Medical Identity Theft Articles

Print | Email | Share | Comments (0)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Comments


Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...


Username: Password:
Comment:
©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.