Medical ID Theft: Health Information for Older People
What is medical ID theft, and how is it different from any other identity theft?
Medical identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it to commit health care fraud. Medical ID thieves may use your identity to get treatment — even surgery — or to bilk insurers by making fake claims. Repairing damage to your good name and credit record can be difficult enough, but medical ID theft can have other serious consequences. If a scammer gets treatment in your name, that person’s health problems could become a part of your medical record. It could affect your ability to get medical care and insurance benefits, and could even affect decisions made by doctors treating you later on. The scammer’s unpaid medical debts also could end up on your credit report.
You can catch medical identity theft early on. First, read every “Explanation of Benefits” statement you get from your health insurer. Follow up on any item you don’t recognize. At least once a year, ask the health insurers you’ve been involved with for a list of the benefits they paid in your name. Finally, make it a regular practice to check your credit reports. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide companies every 12 months. You can order your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you think you may be a victim of medical identity theft, ask your health care provider or hospital for your medical records. You have a right to get copies of your current medical files from each health care provider, though you may have to pay for them. You also have a right to have inaccurate or incomplete information removed. Learn more about your rights under federal law at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website. If a health care provider refuses, you can file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights. Your state provides rights, too. You can look up your state’s laws online at the Georgetown University Center on Medical Rights and Privacy. Many hospitals have ombudsmen or patient advocates who also can help.
For more information on protecting personal information, see How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure.
You don’t need to wait until your wallet is stolen to get your free credit report from each of the consumer reporting companies. You’re entitled to a free report from each one every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com.
Who Cares About Medical ID Theft
FTC, Identity Theft
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Department of Health and Human Services
Getting Your Free Credit Report