Medicaid mixupState sends thousands of Medicaid cards to wrong addresses
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is working toward damage control after sending out thousands of Medicaid ID cards to the wrong addresses last week.
The cards were issued after new eligibility rules took effect Jan. 1, switching more than 70,000 children's medical coverage from NC Health Choice to Medicaid. However almost 49,000 of those cards containing personal information were sent to the wrong addresses across the state.
The cards contain the recipient's name, address, date of birth, primary care physicians and Medicaid identification number. No Social Security numbers were released.
In a released statement, Sandra Terrell, acting Medicaid director for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the issue occurred "because of human error in computer programming and the quality assurance process in printing the new Medicaid identification cards."
Despite knowing about the mistake Tuesday, Dec. 31, the state Department of Health and Human Services didn't issue a notice to the public and media until just after 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3. Agency spokesman Ricky Diaz said officials were informed of the problem Thursday. Five days after the announcement, Diaz resigned from his position.
Terrell advised parents to shred or cut the incorrect cards into small pieces or turn the card in to the county department of social services.
According to the press release, DHHS will send impacted recipients statements of Medicaid services rendered using their ID number, which will help families recognize whether the child's Medicaid ID number has been misused.
The state Office of Information Technology Services is conducting an external review of the processes and procedures that led to the breach.
Dove said the number of Haywood County recipients who were affected by the incident has not yet been released to the county. However, his office has answered about 30 calls from people asking what they need to do when it comes to their child's Medicaid cards.
According to The Mountaineer Facebook page, there were several locals who were confused about the mixup.
The state sent Kristy Kephart a Medicaid card that wasn't meant for her address.
"I called DSS and they told me to tear it up. I shredded it, but it has a lot of personal information on there that people could use if it gets in the wrong hands. Stupid government!" she said on Facebook.
Samantha Dawn Denton, of Clyde also received the wrong Medicaid card.
"I received one and they first told me to tear it up, then called back the next day and told me not to tear it up, to bring it back to them, that Medicaid was wanting all the cards back now if they could get them," she said.
Dove said the preferred method is to turn the incorrect card into the local DSS office so they can determine those who were impacted.
"This is information that was not intended for these recipients and they should not act upon this information. They are advised to immediately destroy the card or turn it into us," he said.
Each impacted Medicaid eligible recipient will be mailed a new Medicaid ID card with a new Medicaid ID number, which is expected to mitigate fraud. Until the new cards are issued, recipients may continue to access medical services by using their NC Health Choice ID number or card.
"In any circumstance where an individual's information may have been released, monitoring is always a good idea. The state has taken precautions by flagging the affected Medicaid ID numbers in the computer system that is used for monitoring and tracking. The state department will receive an alert if an affected card is used. Still, it's always a good idea if your information has gotten out there to make sure that it's not used," he said.
Protecting against fraud
Families whose Medicaid cards were sent to wrong addresses can take steps to guard against possible identity theft and health care fraud, said Attorney General Roy Cooper Tuesday.
Misusing a Medicaid benefit card is a felony, and Cooper's Medicaid Investigative Division has prosecuted people in the past for such crimes.
“Parents of children whose health insurance cards wound up in the wrong hands are understandably concerned,” Cooper said. “Taking a few simple steps can give families peace of mind that their child’s information isn’t being misused.”
Cooper suggests the following for parents and legal guardians of children whose Medicaid cards went to the wrong address:
- Contact the three credit bureaus to see if your child has a credit report. In most cases, children under 18 will not have a credit report. The credit bureaus include Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888-397-3742; and TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289.
- If your child has a credit report, request a fraud alert from the credit bureau.
- Freeze your child's credit report if your child has one. A security freeze prevents anyone with personal information from taking out a loan or credit card in his or her name.
- Monitor statements of medical services you receive to make sure someone hasn't used your child's Medicaid number to get medical treatment.