Medical ID Theft

The Latest Identity Crisis

Medical Identity Theft

By Jennifer Nelson
Publication Date: 12/07/2008
When Brandon Sharp, 37, of Spring, Tex., applied for his first home loan, his lender called with bad news: The $20,000 in unpaid hospital bills on his credit report had damaged his chances for a mortgage. But Sharp hadn’t had any health problems. He was a victim of medical ID theft. Someone had stolen his information in order get health care.

According to the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit consumer-education group, medical ID theft may affect up to half a million people—many of whom don’t even know about it. And unlike “ traditional” ID theft, it can jeopardize not only your credit but also your health. “If the thief has diabetes, it’s now on record that you have diabetes,” says Joy Pritts of Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute. “That might factor into what medications you’re given.” There’s also potential for exhausting your insurance benefits—not to mention the time and effort needed to undo a thief’s work.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that it takes 30 hours for consumers to sort out a financial-identity theft. When medical records are involved, however, it takes even longer. Chuck Ottati, 33, of York, Pa., is still fixing the mess made by an acquaintance who stole his Social Security card and used it to run up thousands of dollars in hospital services. The thief was caught and spent time in jail, but since it can take months or even years for a hospital’s collection agency to report charges to credit bureaus, Ottati continues to receive collection notices today. “ It’s never over,” he says.

Complicating matters is the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In theory, the rule permits you access to your medical records and gives you the right to have mistakes fixed. But in reality, “once something has been put into your medical record, doctors are very reluctant to remove it,” says Pritts. Ottati, for one, had to hire an identity-theft protection service to monitor and correct erroneous charges for him.

Criminals can gain access to your health information through a lost or stolen Social Security card, driver’s license, or health-insurance card. In some cases, health-care workers with legitimate access steal your information and sell it.

To prevent your identity from becoming the next hot commodity, guard your health-insurance card carefully. Don’t carry it with you unless you’re visiting a provider, and never give out or write your policy number on health premium checks. Shred old documents containing health information, visit trustworthy facilities that require a photo ID, and use only reputable websites when applying for insurance online.

In addition, periodically request a review of your medical records to ensure that the information they contain is yours. Ask your health insurer for a statement of claims paid, and obtain credit reports from all three credit-reporting agencies yearly. Immediately dispute anything suspicious.

Brandon Sharp cleared his name in time to buy his home but says, “It’s a real hassle and a constant struggle. I’ve adapted to taking care of it, but do I wish it wasn’t there? Oh, yes.”

If You’re a Victim
1 File a police report. It may be helpful in clearing charges with providers and resolving insurance issues.
2 File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights.
3 Check your explanation of insurer’s benefits and question items you don’t recognize.
4 Put a freeze or monitoring alert on your credit. It won’t prevent medical ID theft, but it will inform you of new charges.
5 Consider hiring an identity-theft protection service. For a monthly fee, it will track, dispute, and correct erroneous charges for you.

This is an excellent article outlining one of the segments of Identity Theft that we are not being told about. Medical Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing segments of Identity theft. The article says that is about 30 hours to repair an ID theft situation it is actually 600 hours. I am glad it recommends having some type of Identity Theft plan and let me say that you want it to have these components:
1. An up to date copy of your credit report and one that will not damage your credit score when it was requested
2. 24/7 Credit monitoring and notification. Whenever something new hits your crdit file, you want to know immediately, especially if it was not you.
3.Full Restoration Services perfomed for you by licensed investigators.
4. Access to Legal counsel because you 80% of Identity Theft cases require a lawyer at some point.
If it does not have these components, then you are fooling yourself and wasting your money. For more information on a service that fufills all these requirements. , I recommend logging on to www.prepaidlegal.com/info/bking62.
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