Today’s headlines are alerting consumers to the growing risk of medical identity theft. For some individuals they may incur negative healthcare and financial outcomes unless they fully comprehend this crime.
A Survey sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, a research-based company in Traverse City, Michigan, indicates more than 2 million Americans fell victim to this offense in 2014, a 22 percent hike from 2013.
The Survey revealed this to be a costly offense. More than 36% respondents had to disburse an average expense of $18,660 to resolve the matter. The majority of the funds were spent on identity protection, legal counsel and credit reporting for an average of $8,369. The Survey also accounted for $5,899 on medical services due to a gap in health insurance coverage and more than $4,000 to healthcare providers for care given to frauds in their name. In this instance, 56% of the victims reported that they had lost faith in their healthcare providers. Most consumers believe it is important to control their own health records, but most do not do so as the 2013 Survey reports.
Executive Director Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum and author of the “Medical Identity Theft: The Information Crime That Can Kill You” expresses this action in these terms. One who uses a person’s name or social security number, without their consent, to acquire medical services or prescriptions. It is also the use of a person’s identity to obtain funds by falsifying claims for medical treatment. This poses a potential danger as incorrect information may be entered into the victim’s health record and allows for improper treatment. As the author says, “health insurance may be denied based on medical conditions the victim never had.”
The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information offers this advice to the public. The Commission believes it would be beneficial that individuals order copies of their medical records in order to examine them thoroughly and regularly for errors; specifically the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) which discusses the procedures and exams billed by insurance providers. For example, does the claim payment match the service received? The Commission suggests that consumers write to their health plan provider and request any corrections upon detection.
For more information on medical identity theft visit the World Privacy Forum. For additional material and a printable brochure at Stop Medicare Fraud and The Office of Inspector General for the US Department of Health & Human Services.
To recap, medical identity theft as reflected in the 2013 Survey can be averted if education, a heighten awareness, and protection in sharing personal ID and medical credentials is taken by consumers.