Medical identity theft – is it here to stay?

I can’t imagine this happening but my guess is with identity theft becoming more and more common, it will happen more often than we think.  This is why when I came across the article on News4Jax, I thought it was an important article to share with our clients and potential clients.  We all need to be aware of this becoming an issue.
A women was recently rushed to Flagler Hospital with a serious injury, but once there she learned someone else already had a major surgery at her expense and used her insurance…in another state.
According to a Wall Street Journal study, more than half a million Americans had their medical identities stolen last year by people desperate for medical treatment who don’t have health insurance themselves.  The numbers speak for themselves – medical identity theft affected 2.3 million adult patients in 2014 compared with 1.4 million in 2009, according to a survey by the Ponemon Institute LLC, a research firm.
Some thieves steal medical identities for cancer surgeries or open-heart procedures. In the case of one Palm Coast woman, a stranger with diabetes had a leg amputated using the woman’s medical information, which the woman said was stolen from a hospital.
Since 2011, the number of Americans whose medical identities have been stolen has increased more than 20 percent annually. Most victims end up paying approximately $2,500 to have the situation resolved.
Experts said, for example, that if a person is involved in a car accident and needs an emergency blood transfusion, the indicated blood type might not be theirs if they have been a victim of medical identity theft. That mismatch could cause shock or even death.

To protect your medical identity, security experts warn against the following:

  • To avoid medical identity theft, a first step is to be careful about giving out any personal information over the phone or online and to keep your Social Security card and insurance card in a safe place. Also, be sure to review all statements from insurers – known as explanation of benefits – to be sure you actually received the services that are being paid for. Contact your carrier if there are charges you question. Check your credit reports to see if there are unpaid medical bills in your name.
  • Federal law gives patients the right to access their medical files and receive copies, although there may be a charge. You will have to complete an authorization form. If someone else’s medical information has been folded into your files, alert the doctor, hospital or other medical provider as well as your insurance company.

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