Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Medical Insurance Identity Theft

I recently traveled to that garden spot of the midwest, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and stopped by a bookstore at the airport. My flight was delayed, so I found a worthless novel and used a credit card I rarely ever use to make my purchase. It passed the time, and I didn't think much about it.

The next morning, I headed to work and received a call by 09:00AM from my wife.

"Honey, I got a call from some VISA guy. Said he needs to talk to you. You better call him at 800-xxx-xxxx."

So I made the call and learned that my card was "swiped" and digitally reproduced in Mexico City, Mexico and used for a purchase there - for a whopping $4.97. But shortly thereafer was another charge: this time $80.62. Gratefully, the charges were not approved, but the craftiness of this scam was staggering, nevermind subjected me to the inconvenience of having to visit my bank during bankers' hours - never easy for a doctor.

Now it seems a similar scam might occur with your health insurance.

And thanks to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 that protects certain health information, it can be VERY dificult to track down the perpetrators of such a scam.
The bitter twist on medical identity theft is that once a person tells a keeper of records that someone else's data might be intermingled, the file becomes even harder to obtain. Why? Because it includes another person's medical history, which many hospitals argue can't be turned over without consent.
The LA Times article recommends the following precautions:
To guard against identity theft, patients should:

• Ask to see their medical files from each provider on a regular basis;

• Scan medical and insurance bills for services, medicine and equipment they didn't receive;

• Demand an annual list from their health insurance company of benefits that have been provided.
And I'd like to add one more idea:

Protect your health insurance card like you would a credit card lest some health care charges show up in Mexico City (or another town) for which you're responsible.


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