Are your elderly parents and their medical identity safe?
When I first heard of medical identity theft, I was confused. Why would anyone want to steal someone’s medical identity? The answer is for drugs, surgery, medical treatments and in some cases false billing. Like traditional identity theft, someone stealing your medical identity can affect your finances but it can also affect your health.
If someone is using your parent’s identity to get prescription medications, especially those that are labeled controlled substances, it could trigger an investigation of your parents. They could be denied health coverage for a condition they don’t have or try to make a legitimate claim only to be told they have reached their maximum coverage. They could be billed for services they did not receive.
With the age of computerized everything, information about the thief would be entered in they name, such as blood type, allergies, etc. and they could end up receiving improper treatment that could lead to injury, illness or worse.
Steps To Prevent Medical Identity Theft
- Educate your parents to protect their Social Security Number, Medicare Number and Insurance information.
- Beware of free offers for medical tests, equipment or services that then ask for Medicare or insurance information.
- Never let anyone use their medical ID or information. Not only is it illegal it can be dangerous.
- If their Medicare card is lost or stolen report it right away. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for a replacement.
Signs of Medical Identity Theft
When reviewing your parent’s claims information:
- Are there medical services listed that they did not receive,
- Charges for doctor’s they have never seen?
- Are the dates listed for office visits correct?
- Charges for medical equipment they do not have or use?
- Were they billed for the same thing twice?
Review credit reports for any unpaid medical services or equipment that they never received.
Have your parents received notices from debt collector’s about medical debt they do not owe?
Have your parents tried to make a legitimate insurance claim and been told they have reached their limit?
Have your parents receive notice that coverage has been denied due to an illness they do not have?
Educate your parents about medical identity theft and what they can do to protect themselves.
Do not give out your parent’s personal or medical information over the phone or through the mail unless you initiated contact.
Beware offers of free medical services or products if they ask for health plan information. If the service or product is free, they do not need that information. Medical identity thieves may pose as employees of insurance companies, doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, and even government agencies to get people to reveal their personal information.
As a caregiver of an older person, you should realize they are often targeted. Be sure to inform them of the danger of giving out personal health information. Read any bills carefully, look for the date of service and the name of the provider. If there is a discrepancy contact the health plan to report it immediately.
Also monitor you and your parent’s credit reports for any discrepancies. Keep a record of any hospitalizations, doctor appointments, treatments, medical supplies and medications. Your parent’s or you if you have their permission or guardianship, can also request copies of medical records.
If you believe your parent(s) have been a victim of medical identity theft:
1. Contact their healthcare provider. It could be a simple mistake.
2. If this does not solve the problem, report questionable charges to Medicare and any other insurance providers they may have.
3. If you suspect Medicare fraud contact the Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General.
4. File a complaint with the FTC Federal Trade Commission, their local police, their health insurance/plan provider, as well as the three major credit reporting companies.
5. If coverage has been denied based on false claims or misinformation, file an appeal.
6. Hire an attorney. If your parent has had their medical identity stolen, the correction process is going to be difficult and time-consuming. A good attorney can make the process easier, less painful, less stressful and in the end, less expensive. Let them do what they do best.
You can find more information and helpful links at:
Get a free credit report each year by calling 1-877-322-8228
If you need help reading your Medicare Summary Notice: Medicare Summary Notice
An interesting article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA: Medical Identity Theft A Growing Problem