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A Thief’s New Treasure

A Thief’s New Treasure Review It

Medical Identity Theft

Posted on 06/09/09 at 11:10PM

With more than 8 million* victims each year at an estimated cost of $50 billion*, it’s not surprising that we’ve all heard horror stories about identity theft and fraud. Luckily for consumers, there are hundreds of businesses delivering identity theft protection services to preserve personal privacy and credit. But with annual health care fraud losses reaching an estimated $255 billion and the number of insured Americans soon to surpass 50 million, who’s protecting your medical identity?

When your wallet or purse is stolen, you immediately call and cancel your credit cards and notify your banks of the theft. But did you think to call your health, dental and vision insurance companies and report your insurance cards stolen? An insurance card is just as valuable, if not more so, than a credit card. Thieves can use your health insurance card to get medical treatments and expensive surgery, as well as prescription drugs, leaving you responsible for the bill. Medical identity theft is difficult to detect because you may not know about it until you receive a bill or collections notice from a medical provider. And the impact of having your medical ID stolen goes beyond the financial impacts. Thieves can change the information in your medical record by updating your list of allergies, family history, or even your blood type. They can also change your address and other contact information to keep you from receiving provider notices. These types of changes can cause life saving treatments to be skipped based on a noted allergy you don’t actually have, or provide you with the wrong blood type if you were severely injured and unable to communicate with the attending doctors. You may even be denied access to your own medical file under HIPAA’s privacy regulations.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from this type of theft:

- Check your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) after each doctor’s visit to ensure that all office visits and procedures noted are accurate.

- If you lose your insurance card, call your insurance provider immediately to inform them of the loss and request a new insurance card AND number. Simply getting a new card doesn’t protect you if the thief has your ID number.

- Always cross shred personal documents when disposing of them.

- Request a copy of your medical records and review them thoroughly for any discrepancies. It’s much easier to get a copy of your medical file before you’re a victim than after.

- Ask your HR representative if your company’s health, dental and vision plans are analyzing all claims for fraud, abuse and overpayment. (Fraud prevention requires commitments from all parties.) Also consider contacting your insurance company to inquire about technologies and practices utilized to detect and prevent fraud.

- Write a letter or send an email to your state and federal congressional representatives asking that they mandate health care fraud prevention in your state.

- Visit www.stophealthcarefraud.com to stay abreast of news and tactics to help you guard against medical identity theft.


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