Medical identity theft is one form of fraud that is quickly on the rise. The internet has contributed to the fallout, while privacy laws make this problem very difficult to resolve. Once they are equipped with an unknowing patient’s information, thieves have the power to inflict considerable damage. After claiming the identity, they will be able to receive benefits in the victim’s name, such as medical visits, treatment, and discount prescription drugs. A thief may even file fraudulent claims, which could leave a victim with numerous unpaid bills, annoying calls from collection agencies, a wrecked credit score, and worst of all, inaccurate medical records.
Dangers of medical identity theft
Most victims of medical identity theft will not have a clue of the crime until they receive a hefty bill from a provider. After realizing the problem, the very laws put in place to protect a consumer make it terribly difficult to actually prove medical identity theft. Under federal privacy laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act, healthcare providers receive penalties upon releasing personal information to an individual without following strict protocol – in the case of medical identity theft, it is often the victim who is denied access to their own information.
Unlike the major credit bureaus, there is no central repository designated for medical records. There is no service with a super database that collects and maintains information regarding one’s health insurance plan or medical history. This leaves a patient with the time consuming task of contacting every provider they have ever visited to obtain the information.
There is currently no standard process victims of medical identity theft can rely on to dispute false claims or fix potentially hazardous mistakes within their records. This is not only a financial nightmare, but a serious health risk as well. If a healthcare provider has documented records for fraudulent services in your name, the next visit could easily result in an inaccurate diagnosis or drug prescription.
Protecting yourself against medical identity theft
Since recovering from medical identity theft is such a challenge, the best defense of all is prevention. Here are a few things you can do to stay on the safe side:
Prepare – Now that you are aware of medical identity theft and the dangers involved, it is very wise to begin gathering your records before an attempt is made. Be sure to contact every one of the medical providers you visited and request a copy of your medical records. This is something that should be done at least once or twice per year.
Communicate – It is also very important to stay on top of your medical insurance claims. Contact a representative and request documentation for each and every claim that has been filed and paid on your behalf.
Read the fine print – Last but not least, it is a must that you thoroughly overlook every invoice received from a provider. The same holds true for the details of your insurance benefits. Make sure you are familiar with every item of service on the bill or claim on the insurance report. If there is something that you do not understand, never hesitate to contact the insurance company or healthcare provider.