Protecting your medical identity

By Jim Kelly | Feb 26, 2014
Jim Kelly

With the recent breach of credit card information at Target, many consumers are adopting more cautious strategies, like credit freezing, to protect their identity and financial information from theft. With cost estimates in the range of $3000, and more than 500 hours of work to repair an individual’s identity reports after theft, it is imperative that consumers today understand and implement proactive safeguards to protect themselves and their financial future. Unfortunately, when so much focus is placed on the protection of financial data, individuals rarely pause to consider what effect the theft of their medical data could have on their future. Protecting yourself from medical identity theft is just as important as protecting your financial identity.

Medical identity theft can occur if someone else uses your personal health information or insurance information to obtain medical services without authorization. This often leads to inaccurate entries in your medical record and falsified billing claims that can put both your physical and financial safety at great risk.

Individuals must proactively protect their medical identity.  Here are a few practices that you can implement to catch errors and decrease the risk of medical identity theft.

— Protect your medical insurance card and information with the same vigilance that you protect your credit cards and social security card.  If you suspect that your card has been lost or compromised, inform your medical insurance provider immediately.

— Review your Statement of Benefits.  After visiting a medical service provider, your insurance carrier typically issues a statement that describes the services and charges that were performed by the provider.  Ask for an annual summary from your insurance provider to check for errors.

— Contact your doctor’s office for a copy of your medical record.  Review with your doctor items on your record that you don’t recognize, like past surgeries, diagnosis of chronic disease or visits to “urgent care” facilities that may not be accurate.

— Never share your insurance information with a non-provider.  You should be suspicious of any “free” evaluation services that ask for your medical insurance information.

— Monitor your financial credit report for fraudulent medical debts.

Awareness and a timely response to a financial or medical theft incident are keys to minimizing the negative impact.  For more information or if you suspect that your medical identity has been compromised, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Identity Theft Division at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.

Jim Kelly works for the information security office at Mission Health.

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