Thursday, October 29, 2009

Raising the Red Flag on Identity Theft

Typically, when I think of identity theft, I think about someone stealing a credit card and racking up huge bills or opening financial accounts in that person’s name using their personal information.

In healthcare, we work very hard to protect individuals’ personal health information. This includes not only your everyday information such as your address, phone number, or Social Security Number; this includes your Medicare card, your health insurance account number, your medical information, and more. We are covered by a law known as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, otherwise known to us as HIPAA.

In the past year, you may have noticed some changes when you come to GRMC for services. For example, we are now asking for a photo I.D. so we can make a copy for our records so we will always know who you are. Even though we see many of you on regular basis and certainly know who you are, this is not the same for everyone.

Using that same situation about a stolen credit card, consider this scenario:
Someone has stolen your wallet and has all your identification, including your insurance cards. They can sell your information to scam artists for a good deal of money, or they could use your card themselves. They could walk into the emergency room of an urban hospital and get medical care on your account. Untangling all that with your insurance company would be a difficult and lengthy process because now you have medical tests, results, and health conditions on your account that may or may not be yours.

We have also heard stories from other parts of the country where a friend with health insurance gives their insurance card to a friend who is without insurance and needs medical care. This may be well-intentioned, but is very dangerous for the same reasons. First of all, it is fraud and now existing health conditions are tagged with this insurance account complicating an already complicated situation.

Thanks for your patience as we implement these new rules designed to protect you and your financial and personal health information. Please let us know if you have any questions about the “Red Flags Rule.”

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