Imagine opening a bill from a doctor or hospital only to find that a medical treatment or procedure has been performed on somebody else—at your expense! Identity theft statistics from the Federal Trade Commission state that 250,000 new cases of medical identity theft are reported to the agency each year. This amounts to about three percent of all identity theft in the country. The need for identity protection has never been greater, consumer.ftc.gov.
Alarming Facts About Medical Identity Theft
Sadly, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, half of medical id theft victims know the person involved. Medical identity theft may be the most serious of all types of identity theft if you consider the following:
- The average cost of healthcare fraud through identity theft, per incident is $20,663. While healthcare providers and facilities may not hold you accountable directly for fraudulent medical bills, the healthcare system as a whole must absorb each loss, passing it along to the patient. This results in higher medical costs overall in the form of treatment rates and raised insurance premiums.
- Your insurance company, because of fraudulent use of your healthcare account could deny you critical medical attention. Your medical records kept by healthcare providers and insurance companies reflect the entire history of every doctor visit and treatment you receive. If another individual gets medical care under your Social Security Number or healthcare subscriber number, it could take years to separate your two medical files. In the mean time, insurance companies may not pay for necessary treatment or procedures needed by you. Companies may also raise your insurance premiums based on inaccurate or erroneous information as a result of medical identity theft.
- Your doctors and other medical professionals may have a confusing or unclear picture of your actual medical health history. Because of this, you could get the wrong diagnosis or treatment based on inaccuracies in your medical files.
- Unpaid bills for fraudulent charges from healthcare facilities, physicians, or medical laboratories could negatively affect your credit history. While medical fraud specialists from your health insurance provider may work to untangle the mess that identity theft has created and offer education on how to prevent identity theft in the future, you may not be able to make necessary purchases or open lines of credit based on your corrupted credit files. While the best identity protector is you, currently only about 43% of patients surveyed by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud ever check their medical histories to verify the accuracy of information contained within it. Because of this, without identity protection medical identity theft could go undetected for an extended period of time.
- Complete identity protection is not provided by the healthcare industry. In fact, the majority of identity theft cases are the result of individuals with access to healthcare information sharing or selling Social Security Numbers or healthcare subscriber numbers for financial gain. While 80% of medical records facilities report identity theft through at least some form of a data breach in the past, the losses related to these occurrences pale in comparison to the numbers associated with id theft by healthcare workers.
Medical theft and healthcare identity fraud is growing by as much as 100% each year, and protection from thieves is more important than ever. The consequences of having your personal information and health account numbers used for fraudulent purposes could be critical. Protecting yourself and your medical records from healthcare fraud has never been easier with enhanced identity theft protection tools.