Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Identity Theft - Medical Style

I'm sure we're all aware of the recent phenomenon of identity theft and the financial issues it has caused thousands of people. Well, as I alluded to in my last post, I was made aware of an issue by our Medical Records Director that I hadn't ever given consideration. Medical Identity Theft!

The Director described several instances in the last year of individuals presenting to the ER for medical care and using stolen insurance cards. The more I thought about it the more I surmised that this would be harder to catch than trying to nab people using stolen credit cards.

Think about it. You go to the ER or your physician's office and give them your insurance card which, they copy and give back to you. You receive your service, make your co-pay, and you're out the door. Weeks later you receive your EOB of which you review, well, some of you review. Therein lies the problem. You won't even discover that someone has stolen your medical identity until weeks later and they're long gone. In the mean time, while you attempt to straighten this out, the medical providers turn you over to a collection agency and now you have issues not only with your medical records but your finances as well. Think its far-fetched? This poor soul didn't even have his insurance card stole and he still became a victim on an ID alone.

There are even more versions of medical identity theft. You could be laid up in the ICU and someone takes your identity and runs with it. Criminals are also purchasing medical supplies and equipment with health insurance info and then fencing them on the gray market to support their other dubious endeavors. This widow reports on the FTC website that she avoided possible tragedy when someone admitted herself into the hospital in her name with a different blood type than hers. Had she not checked when she needed an infusion she could have possibly received the wrong blood type.

In a recent article, the University of Connecticut notes that it has experienced this problem to the tune of $76,000 for one patient alone and is taking aim at correcting it by requiring picture ID's for all services. They have already experienced positive results of their new policy. Several people have presented for care and have stated they left their ID in the car only to never return after going to retrieve it.

How can you help protect yourself? Carolyn Pennington of UCONN states in her article that the State of Connecticut recommends the following:

The state insurance department offers tips for protecting yourself:
  • Never give out health insurance information over the phone.
  • If you lose your card, call your insurance company right away.
  • Keep your health insurance information private, even from family members.
The ol' cliche, "It takes all kinds," seems to ring true here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Thought I Had Heard It All

Every morning when I arrive at work there is usually a new issue/problem waiting for me. Today was no exception. I had a voice mail from a very stressed Medical Records Director concerning a patient of ours. This patient had received an implant on a certain date but now, he and his family are denying that they were ever here.

I had to chuckle, for a couple of reasons. One because it reminded me of the old Eddie Murphy Delirious stand up comedy routine where he describes the situation where a wife sees her husband exiting a motel room with another girl. When she confronts him about it he continually denies it was him saying, "wasn't me." She tells him that she saw him with her own two eyes and he continues to state it wasn't him. After a few minutes, she begins to question herself and says "Maybe it wasn't you?" The second reason was I said to myself, "I just thought I had heard it all."

So I go and review our records and just like I thought we have signature proof and detailed records demonstrating that he was indeed here on the disputed date. It is amazing the things people will do to avoid paying the bill. In my next post, I'll discuss a related issue that came up when trying to resolve this one. Something I hadn't even thought about or knew existed but, when I was told about it, it didn't surprise me in the least.

Long Time No Blog

Well, once again I have to apologize for avoiding my blogging duties. I can really tell the traffic has died off this month with no new updates. Between work, home, and church, blogging on a consistent basis is hard to do. Not to mention coming up with content that readers would be interested in reading. I have to give kudos to those that are able to blog daily with information worth reading.

In my hiatus, several topics I would like to discuss have come on the horizon so I hope to get them out of my head and onto the blogosphere. So look for some new posts from here on out.