We’ve talked before about medical identify theft. That’s the term for when someone steals your health insurance information, runs out and gets surgery, and then you get stuck with the bill. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s a fast growing problem that now effects more then 250.000 North Americans each year! Unlike regular ID theft, medical ID theft can hurt both your wallet and your health.
Fortunately, protecting yourself from medical ID theft is a lot like protecting yourself from regular ID theft. In other words: Never give out medical information over the phone, guard your health insurance card as carefully as you would a credit card , and always examine your insurance statements carefully for errors. Basically, you should look for any suspicious treatment you never received, or prescription you never filled. Okay, but what if you do find something suspicious? Then follow these surprising tips we found in Rodale publishing.
- Step #1: DON’T tell your doctor! It sounds counter-productive, but doctors are required to protect the privacy of all their patients – even if a patient happens to be a thief. So telling your physician you suspect something’s wrong may cause him to believe a thief’s private medical history could be mixed up with your private history – and he’ll deny access to your very own medical records! That’s why experts recommend asking to review your records first. Then bring up your concern only after you find something suspicious.
- Step #2: Ask your doctor for a document called an “accounting of disclosures.” That’s an itemized list of every agency your medical information is shared with – like insurance providers and pharmacies. You’ll need to contact each agency separately, to make sure they don’t have your records confused with a thief’s. Why? Well, imagine going to the ER and being denied a potentially life-saving medication, because your records show a drug allergy you don’t have!
- The final step in dealing with medical ID theft: Call the police. Know this: Your odds of catching a medical thief are about 1 in 700! However, you’ll need a copy of your official police report before you can begin contesting any fraudulent insurance charges.