LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 28, 2007) - We are all aware of the rampant crime of Identity Theft. And if you are one of the millions who have had this happen to you and have had to unravel the tangles of trumped up credit card charges and worse, then you know how destructive this crime can be. But health insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield are reporting a rise in a new spin on the crime. Medical ID Theft; and it can have devastating consequences not only on your finances but also on your health.
Many people with health insurance fail to realize that their insurance card is as valuable, maybe even more valuable then their credit card. When it comes to paying for medical expenses, depending on the limits of your policy, a valid Blue Cross Blue Shield Card can be like holding a platinum Amex Card with A Million-Dollar credit limit. And if you are not aware of this be assured that thieves and unscrupulous medical providers certainly are. According to Byron Hollis, The National Anti Fraud Director with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, "It's an old problem that people are becoming more aware of" According to the World Privacy Forum since 2002 it has received more than 20,000 complaints of Medical ID theft, in ever increasing annual numbers. The most obvious way that medical ID theft occurs is if someone simply steals your insurance card and begins using it to procure medical services. This can mount up in a dangerous way, because again, most consumers are just not aware how important a lost insurance card can be, and will not report it immediately like they will a credit card. As the thief continues to rack up bills for illegitimate expenses the problem becomes twofold, not only in fraudulent charges being billed against your medical insurance policy, but the thief may confuse your medical history with their own, by ordering tests and medications that you do not require. This can have a serious impact on your future healthcare.
But perhaps more insidious is when the theft occurs when you use your health insurance benefits legitimately at the office of a medical provider and that information is lifted by an unscrupulous employee and sold on the open market. Many hospitals and HMO's are implementing plans to fight Medical ID Theft, in the meantime if you want to be sure your information has not been hijacked, ask you healthcare provider for the most recent copy of your medical records, and ensure that all of the procedures, treatments and history of your conditions are indeed yours. Check all of your bills meticulously and look for any fraudulent charges. And protect your Health Insurance numbers and ID Cards just as you would your credit cards and Social Security Number.
If you suspect you have been a victim of Medical ID Fraud first contact your Insurance Company and ask to speak directly to their Anti-Fraud unit, then contact the police, and lastly you may want to contact your medical provider, but experts agree that since they may be involved in the crime, it is best to contact them LAST, after the police and your health insurance company so as not to tip the hand of the possible perpetrator.