Report Raises Concerns about Medical Identity Theft

Written by on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Medical identity theft is on the rise, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

What exactly is medical identity theft?  Well, it is when someone steals your identity in order to either submit fraudulent claims or to obtain otherwise unaffordable medical care. 

The Chicago Tribune reported on this issue as follows:

In many cases the crimes are not discovered until a collection agency begins calling. Often, the thief will arrange to have the insurers’ billing documents sent to a false address. . .It’s common for thieves to create fraudulent driver’s licenses and insurance cards, which are all most medical centers ask for before they provide care. . . .

Even if the victim does not end up paying the bill, he will have to deal with false information in his medical and health insurance records.

Having someone else’s information mixed in your medical record could compromise your own care. What if the test results or physical findings are those of someone else, but doctors use them when you have a medical emergency?

So, given the increasing prevalence of identity theft in the medical area, what can Americans do to protect their information?  Well, the most obvious ways to protect ourselves would be to take better care of our insurance cards and destroy all medical data before disposing of health-related records.  And, of course, we can check our credit reports frequently to ensure that no collections activity has been taken against us by medical clinics, etc.   Beyond these obvious courses of action, however, it is a bit unclear what can be done to stop medical identity theft, since most of us are not even privy to our health records, which are often scattered all over a number of healthcare facilities.  Given the fact that many of these records are not even stored in a centralized database to date, it seems highly unlikely that we are going to be able to start monitoring our health records in the near future in the same way that we currently monitor our FICO scores. 

All in all, the issue definitely raises cause for concern.   In my opinion, privacy experts need to start grappling with these issues now before they can become a more significant problem down the road..

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