How Identity Theft Sticks You with Hospital Bills

Fueling medical identity theft is the surge in electronic medical records and data breaches at insurers and health-care providers. Medical identity theft-in which someone fraudulently uses data to bill for medical services-affected 2.3 million adult patients in 2014 versus 1.4 million in 2009, according to a survey published in February by the Ponemon Institute LLC, a research concern.

Such identity theft has led about 40 companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Aetna Inc., to form the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance. Some hospitals have turned to biometric screening to confirm patient identities…

“Data breaches are increasing and becoming more common,” says Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, director of the Center for Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “You can end up with diagnoses being placed in your file without your knowledge.” …

Unlike in financial identity theft, health identity-theft victims can remain on the hook for payment because there is no health-care equivalent of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which limits consumers’ monetary losses if someone uses their credit information…

Thieves use many ways to acquire numbers for Social Security, private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. Some are stolen in data breaches and sold on the black market. Such data are especially valuable, sometimes selling for about $50 compared with $6 or $7 for a credit-card number, law-enforcement officials estimate. A big reason is that medical-identification information can’t be quickly canceled like credit cards…

Hospitals are setting up special investigative units to catch medical identity fraud. BayCare Health System, which has hospitals in Florida, is one of hundreds of hospitals that give patients the option to register by scanning veins in the palm. The image is converted into a number that correlates with the patient’s medical record, according to its website…

Some victims say the problems from medical identity theft haunted them for years.

Anndorie Cromar, now a 36-year-old medical-lab supervisor in Salt Lake City, says Utah’s child-protective services called her in 2006 to say her newborn had tested positive for methamphetamine at Alta View Hospital in Sandy, Utah.

Ms. Cromar hadn’t given birth then. Someone had stolen her identification, gone into labor, delivered a baby girl and left the infant at the hospital. The case grabbed headlines at the time, but few knew the ordeal took years to straighten out.

She says she was never able to fully settle the hospital bill the thief had racked up and eventually charged it off when she filed for bankruptcy for unrelated reasons. For months, she continued to get appointment reminders for the baby. She wasn’t able to view her own full medical records because they now contained the thief’s health information. She says she also had to go to court to get her name taken off the baby’s birth certificate.

An Alta View spokesman declines to comment, saying the hospital didn’t have an updated privacy form signed by Ms. Cromar. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services declines to comment.

“To this day, I don’t know if my name is in the baby’s medical record,” Ms. Cromar says. “It’s insidious.”

One thought on “How Identity Theft Sticks You with Hospital Bills

  1. Hospitals engage in billions of dollars in fraud every year and it is estimated that 90 percent of hospital bills contain overcharges. Now they can claim some anonymous stranger just waltzed in for a back surgery under your name and bill you for the full amount. There is no end to the fraud and scams in this system.

    Liked by 1 person

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