Archive for May, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Medical Identity Theft


Nobody wants to get a $4,000 medical bill; especially if they haven’t been in a hospital for years.  But it can happen to anyone and according to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute it already happened to 5.8% adults in America. They have been a victim of medical identity theft, costing an average of $20,160.  The human cost is even higher.
Patients whose medical identities are stolen face serious drawn out effects. Fraudulent health care events can leave erroneous data in medical records. This erroneous information, such as information about tests, diagnoses and procedures, can greatly affect future health care and insurance coverage along with costs. Patients are often unaware of medical identity theft until a medical bill or a collection notice exposes the problem. Then, the burden of proof is with the patient and it is difficult to get the patient’s legitimate medical records cleaned up. The consequences can be life threatening and can lead to serious medical treatment errors and fatalities.
We all are at risk. Our personal information is sprinkled all over in the globe.  US companies hire subcontractors in other nations to provide customer service; data processing and many other functions. Your and my medical claims data can be accessed in the Philippines, because labor is cheaper there.  But even if we consider staying within the border of our nation we can all remember stories about stolen government laptops, lost backup tapes.
Last year CVS, the pharmacy giant, was fined $2.25 million for failing to protect sensitive financial and medical information of its customers and employees.
Just recently 12,000 Medicare enrollees had their protected health information compromised by a simple filing cabinet donation gone wrong.  Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island donated a filing cabinet to a nonprofit organization without first removing surveys that contained Medicare PHI (Protected Health Information). 
While all these stories are awful I believe the real danger is still lies with individuals who work for doctors, clinics and hospitals.  They steal patient records in minutes by downloading information on a flash drive and sell it on a black market.  This could be an unhappy employee or someone recently hired to take a position simply to purloin information.
The only real protection is keeping a close eye on your medial identity.  Check your insurance Explanation of Benefits, look online and make sure that services billed are actually received, ask your insurance company to send you an annual statement for all your medical services.