Action Line: As promised in last week’s column, we are back on the topic of medical identity theft and what you can do if you are an unfortunate victim of medical ID theft.
Let’s start with consumers. Here are ways you would know if you are a victim:
▪ Did you get a bill for something you did not receive?
▪ Have you been contacted by a debt collector for a medical debt that is not yours?
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▪ Did you find listings of office visits or other services on your explanation of benefits that are not yours?
▪ Have you found inaccurate information on your credit report?
▪ Have you been told by your health insurance provider that you have reached the limits on your benefits?
▪ Have you been denied insurance coverage for a condition you do not have?
What can you do?
▪ Research. Call the facility where the fraud happened. Make sure it’s not a clerical error.
▪ Get copies of your medical records. They are yours and you have the right to have copies. They may ask you to pay for the copies.
▪ If it is fraud, file a police report to establish you have been the victim of a crime.
▪ Report the incident to the fraud department of your insurance company
▪ File an ID theft report with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov.
▪ Your information should be protected by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, check for compliance. Here is a link for more info: fblinks.com/hhs. If the facility has not been compliant, you can file a complaint here: www.hhs.gov/ocr.
▪ Report the scam at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.
▪ Hold on to to all records. Document your conversations with any of the agencies and facilities along with the name of the person you talked to and the date you called.
▪ Check your credit report for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com to make sure your credit history is accurate.
▪ If you find any inaccurate information on your credit report you need to dispute it. Dispute anything that is inaccurate through the credit reporting agencies: Transunion (800-680-7289), Experian (888-397-3742) and Equifax (800-525-6285).
Businesses, physicians, hospitals, clinics, etc., here is what you can do to help protect your patients:
▪ Provide brochures to your patients from the FTC about medical identity theft; it is available in English and Spanish.
▪ If you follow the HIPAA rules, it will significantly reduce the risk of information being breached. Ask for identification from anyone who requests medical information before you release the information.
▪ HIPAA rules include requirements that you have “reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information, like training employees on how to handle and dispose of health information, and how to keep health information physically secured.”
▪ If you have a patient who becomes a victim, help them! Provide the copies that they request in a timely manner and do not charge exorbitant fees.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.