Medical Identity Theft Can Prevent You From Being Treated
In a day and age when identity theft is rampant along comes medical identity theft, not just identity theft, and unlike the credit variety, arguably traumatic enough in and of itself to deal with, it can do more than wreak havoc with your life, it could actually kill you.
Experts estimate that some 250,000 to 500,000 have already been victimized by this fast-growing crime last year alone. Medical identity theft is when a person assumes someone else’s identity for the purpose of getting medical goods or services, usually by fraudulently accessing that other person’s medical insurance, either public or private.
This problem has such grave consequences that state and federal agencies are issuing a medical alert to participating healthcare practitioners to verify a patient’s identity and require at least one or two forms of photo ID before giving out prescriptions, especially id the patient is new to the practice.
Medical Identity theft usually comes in one of two forms --- either because someone usually can’t afford or isn’t willing to pay for medical treatment, or for financial gain. This latter version is usually more organized and has someone on the inside such as a doctor, nurse, billing clerk or insurance biller, any of whom can have access to confidential patient information and can change the patient’s records to get payment for medical services.
In the old days, doctors or others in the healthcare field would just bill for services not actually performed, but as frauds perpetrated in the past became fairly easy to spot, today’s schemes are getting more sophisticated as patient records are being changed to reflect drugs, equipment and services that the patient never actually got.
The consequences for either of these forms of medical identity theft can be far reaching for the victim. In addition to any financial liability, there is also the risk that the doctor or pharmacy could accidentally use improper treatment for a condition or disease process that the patient doesn’t actually have, not to mention having a record of drugs dispensed that could potentially be injurious.
To keep from being a victim, there are a few steps that you can take to protect yourself. If you have medical insurance, see if you can get an annual listing of what payments were made out on your behalf. If any look suspicious or unfamiliar, check with your provider to make sure you really did have the services or tests listed. If you don’t, check to make sure that there are no odd charges showing up on your bill.
If you can afford it (and the cost is the sticky point here --- it CAN be an expensive proposition, since many practices try to secretly keep the cost up to discourage patients from getting them even though by law they’re entitled to) get a copy of your medical records and make sure the information in them is accurate. Also check who your healthcare provider would share this information with and why. This last is also a way that medical identity theft could be instigated.