I’m a big fan of keeping my personal information personal. But when it comes to your medical information, maintaining privacy is difficult, if not impossible. That’s because your information isn’t just held by your doctor, hospital and insurer, it’s also a commodity bought and sold by marketers, data base companies and even retailers.
In fact, on the black market, your medical records are more valuable than your social security number. According to Dr. Deborah Peel of Patient Privacy Rights, it costs just 50 cents to a dollar to buy a social security number, but $14 to $24 to buy someone’s private medical details. Smart identify thieves are leaving the dumpster diving behind and focusing on medical identity theft because they prefer the deeper pockets of insurers to consumers.
A typical identity theft involves the looting of your insurance information by a thief who then makes false claims for drugs or medical services. The mess that creates can plague a victim for years to come. It’s no surprise then that when the state of California suggested having ex-felons sign up people for healthcare exchanges under Obamacare , privacy advocates fought against the proposal.
And, don’t think it can’t happen to you. Medical identity theft is a big and growing problem– as much as half of the $80 billion a year in health care fraud, as estimated by the FBI. The World Privacy Forum’s Pam Dixon says the FBI concedes that drug dealers have switched careers to medical fraudsters because the risk of being caught is so low.
Victims may never find out their medical identity has been stolen until they get an explanation of benefits letter from their insurer describing services they’ve never received. If that happens to you, get a complete copy of your health records, which are essential to figuring out your case.
By law, one must be provided access to your records. Contact all health care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, and even labs and insurers to get the details. Typically, your personal information may be mixed up with the fraudster’s. Covered entities have 30 days to respond.
Getting the information may be the easiest part of fixing the problem. Your next goal will be to remove information that could impact future treatment. Most of the companies you deal with will NOT be required to work with you. Ask to amend the record, if you can’t get rid of information that doesn’t belong to you. Setting the record straight is important because the wrong information on your health record can harm you. An incorrect blood type or wrong personal case history could impact your care in the future.
For more on how your medical records are being used and abused - tune in tonight to the Willis Report for a special investigation at 6pm ET on the Fox Business Network.
Gerri Willis is the host of "The Willis Report" (6 & 9PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers. Click here to see more from Gerri Willis.