How Much Is Your Medical IDENTITY Worth?

Medical 2014
by – Sheri de Grom

Few of us think about having our medical identity stolen. The crime of medical identity theft has been happening for years and is rampant today. Most of us are unaware that it’s occurred until something significant happens in our own world of health or our credit rating has crashed.

Medical identity theft is the fraudulent use of another person’s medical identity in order to obtain medical services and medications or to bill a third-party payer such as an insurance company or Medicare and then keep the payment for personal use.

The theft of your medical identity also reveals your social security number, health system ID, driver’s license number, health insurance and other personal information plus critical details a thief can use in multiple ways.

The crime can have long-lasting and dangerous effects, both on your health and your finances. The thief may obtain health services in your name or bill fraudulently for services that, although you never received them, could max out your annual or lifetime insurance limits.

Whether the thief is actually receiving medical treatment or just billing for fictitious treatments in your name, incorrect information—about blood type, diagnoses, or drug allergies, for instance—may infiltrate your medical records as a result.

Collection letters for overdue accounts for an unfamiliar doctor visit or procedure is the most common clue to victims of this crime.

Be vigilant about handling your medical information. Don’t let explanation-of-benefit statements from your insurer sit in a pile of unopened mail. Review them like you would a bank statement or auto repair bill. If you see an unfamiliar procedure, doctor’s name, or service date, call to inquire.

The media tells us when a large number of social security numbers are stolen or when our credit and debit cards are in jeopardy.

Your medical identity will be with you for a lifetime. It is one of your most important assets. Don’t allow someone to steal it from you.

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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81 Responses to How Much Is Your Medical IDENTITY Worth?

  1. Sheri, great posting! Sharing it on my facebook page. I hadn’t really thought about this—makes a lot of sense!

    • Thanks for stopping by. The theft of medical identity is at the top of white collar crime in the US and I don’t believe it will slow down anytime soon. The Obama Administration would have us believe the recession is over and we can get on with our lives but if that were so, people wouldn’t be stealing the average person’s medical identity. Most thieves don’t have this level of sophistication and they are eventually going to get caught. In the meantime, the individual with the stolen identity will have entered the financial gates of hell and sometimes it’s impossible to ever regain secure footing anywhere on planet earth.

  2. I knew that most of our medical information is not private anymore, but I didn’t know about this problem.

    • John – Medical identification is now more important than SSN for thieves. With your medical identity they have immediate access to not only your SSN but access to free healthcare (they rarely pay deductibles so you’ll get hit with those bills and not know they are coming). Plus, they’ll have your address and will be able to obtain make/model of your car and provide enough information to sell it legally on the open market. With your medical identity your entire being can be bought and sold hundreds of times over and over. In addition, your medical records will contain faulty information and depending on the information, it could kill you. I know, I’m a regular ray of sunshine. It’s great to see you here. Medicare benefit info is as important as commercial and it’s tougher to clean up as no one wants to talk with you at Medicare. Sheri

    • Jeanne, You are such a dear soul. Thank you so much for reblogging this. I often shudder when people with Medicare leave their Medicare Identification cards at the check-in clerks desk as requested and then the clerk simply puts them on the open counter for others to pickup at random. This is actually a federal crime for anyone in the medical establishment to do this careless act and when I’ve brought it to the attention of the administrative head, I get the same answer: ‘we don’t have time to run down the patient.’ I like to remind them of the penalty if one of their patients has their medical identity compromised. That one statement usually gets their attention.

  3. i really appreciate the time and effort needed to post such information. I think you really help a number of us increase our awareness surrounding medical issues/money.

    • Kimberly – Thank you for reading and stopping in to comment. Sometimes I think perhaps individuals don’t need reminding of how valuable keeping your insurance information safe is for your future. Your insurance information is more important than your social security info only. A thief can get every bit of information about you from your insurance cards or other bit of your insurance. Now that most hospitals and doctor’s offices have ‘portals,’ you can help protect yourself in that your information is correct by signing up for the portal and reviewing your own medical record. This is especially true for blood type and your medical list as well as certain lab tests, etc.

  4. inesephoto says:

    Very disturbing…

  5. jbw0123 says:

    Thanks Sheri. This is helpful, and disturbing. Just changed dentists, and was dismayed to find on the online registration form a request for my drivers’ license number and social security number. I omitted the DL # and gave only the last four SSL digits. No one seemed to notice or care. Very strange.

    • Julia – Thank heavens you are a smart woman. No one ever needs your driver license number. If law enforcement ask to see your license, you are entitled to see their badge and identifying information first AND to call and ensure they are who they say they are. If they are legit, then you hand over the info. Additionally, your dentist doesn’t need your SSN if you are paying cash. If you have dental insurance with a co-pay, they will have your dental policy number and that’s all that’s required if you pay the co-pay at the time of the visit. Dentist are now among the ranks of those gathering information used in data mining. They would have been able to sell your license # and complete SSN for a large sum. I’m not suggesting your dentist would but we can’t know who in the dental office might be able to obtain the information. It’s better to play it safe.

  6. This is scary Sheri. Something on a much smaller scale happened to me, when someone used my name and previous address to buy goods from catalogues. The police weren’t interested and the companies involved didn’t see me as a victim – they saw themselves as the victim (of fraud). I ended up getting collection letters from credit agencies for months until I finally proved to their satisfaction that I didn’t actually live there when the purchases were made.

    • How well I understand, Andrea. I also had someone use my info to subscribe to cable TV in a part of CA where I’d never lived after we’d moved to DC. I knew nothing about it until we were ready to move out of executive housing and start looking for a new home. When we completed all of our financial information, imagine our shock when we discovered my financial identification had been stolen. As with you, the police in the town where the woman lived that stole my ID didn’t care about what was going on and the police in DC certainly didn’t care. The FBI didn’t want to get mixed up in it as I worked for the Department of Defense which shouldn’t have had anything to do with it. It was a horrible mess and took me over a year to clear everything. Like you, to the outsider, it didn’t sound like a big deal but it brought our world to a grinding halt.

  7. Sheri, I don’t want to make light of this serious crime. It is a shame that there are so many who will take our privacy and ruin our good names … be that in credit card theft or medical insurance theft.
    Know that I am telling a truth that sounds funny but in fact is not.

    My standard reaction when folks discuss “identity theft” is thus: Any fool that steals my identity deserves what they get.” I went belly-up decades ago, I have no assets, and my medical is Medicare. That old adage that you have to have money to make money can apply for me in reverse … if you haven’t anything but bad or no credit and there is no medical insurance … no one will steal it. I wish they would. Steal it and leave me someone else’s instead 🙂

    • Florence – You’d be surprised how valuable your Medicare is to someone that has no health insurance. Additionally, that would also give them your SSN# and if you have a home, car and other assets in your name, well my friend, that makes you incredibly vulnerable. We think we don’t have much until someone takes away what we do have. We believe no one can get at our home, vehicle or other tangible items but the opposite is true. Recently I did some work for a friend of a friend and someone had gotten a second mortgage on their home without them knowing anything about it until their mortgage statement arrived.

  8. Patty B says:

    wow – I never heard about this before, but nothing surprises me anymore. I always keep my EOB until I get the drs statement and will continue to do so. I just don’t understand people it is indeed one strange world we live in.

    • Patty – This world seems to get tougher by the minute sometimes. Your ID is especially valuable because it affords you a number of privileges the man on the street considers golden. You and I both know it was the men we love that paid the heavy price for the privileges and there’s nothing entitled about them. Your card is the gateway to every piece of data a thief would ever need and a terrorist would love to get their hands on. Just think, the way the gate guards on bases are just waving people through these days, your ID would get most anyone through the gate.

      • Patty B says:

        so true – I appreciate you always keeping us aware of things going on. I apologize for not emailing but you and Tom are in my prayers. I hope things are going better. I can never seem to get caught up – there is something that always needs done. Anyway…God bless both of you.

        • It’s okay, Patty. I try to keep up with the sheer volume of messages but simply cannot keep up. I have 40,000+ in my basket and just when I delete a batch, I’m away from the computer a few days and I have even more. Know I think of you and the children often and you’re always in my prayers. Love and prayers. Sheri

          • Patty B says:

            Thank you Sheri…emails are like dust..they keep multiplying!! LOL I guess we can say we have email bunnies!! But boy oh boy, yours are on over time.
            Hugs and Gods blessings to you and your Tom!

  9. FlaHam says:

    Sheri, As always a great post. Having had my own step of medical issues I have been attuned to this for quite sometime. Now I pay even closer attention. One of the medical practices I have to deasl with billing department iks so lame, so incompetent, I am forever after them. If it weren’t for the fact that one of my trusted doctors working at this practice I would have baled out a long time ago. Again great read. Take care, Bill

  10. Lignum Draco says:

    It seems like more than just a simple crime. This kind of theft can endanger your life, given the ramifications to your health care. A shocking situation.

    • You are so right, Lignum. I can just see some clerk reading something new on a chart and thinking an incorrect entry has been made and decide to correct it when all along the info is correct. If that happens enough or even one time and it has to do with something significant like blood type or a host of other issues, well your medical identity won’t matter much because you won’t be around to fight the issue.

  11. Jane Sadek says:

    Most of us never think about this! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jane – I often think, naw, I won’t post so and so. Everyone is already totally aware. But, I worked white collar crime for so long and came face to face with it every day and the numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. Once your information is stolen, it’s more trouble than anyone can imagine if they’ve never had to endure the issue.

  12. atempleton says:

    Good advice, as always. Hope you all are enjoying the summer.

  13. Horrors left and right!! Yikes!!

  14. Wow! I never considered this particular epidemic. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll definitely need to be more vigilant in the future.

  15. gpcox says:

    With everyone into a social-media of some sort, people don’t normally think about having their medical info stolen – very good reminder, Sheri.
    Be talking to you soon – best to Tom.

    • Hi, G.P. – I’m looking forward to what you have planned for July 4th.
      How much hand-cranked homemade ice cream do you think it will take to feed 75+ Veterans. The volunteer wives from the air base have convinced the commander to host the veterans for an ice cream social. The Vets that are well enough are invited to stay in the single officers quarters (much nicer than in their day) and then an airman will be assigned to the Veteran 24 hrs around the clock for all base activities (or as much as the Vet) wants to participate in.
      Stolen medical identity is the fastest growing white collar crime in the United States.

      • gpcox says:

        Sheri – I am thrilled beyond words about the ice cream and activities day!! Your program is taking off on its own – and I am speechless.

        • G.P. – Yes, it truly is on its own. I haven’t been out of the house all day and don’t feel guilty. I’d thought I might work in the garden but I even decided no to that idea although I will have to water and such tomorrow.
          I haven’t heard how today went but I didn’t tell anyone to check in with me. I must give others free license to be in charge. The volunteers were so excited you’d have thought they were ten years old going to the beach! Of course the day isn’t over yet.

          • gpcox says:

            This is all so wonderful to hear! Your news and that of the vets – such a contrast to just a few months ago!! Hope you had a relaxing 4th!!!!!

  16. Gallivanta says:

    1.8 million victims! We do,indeed, need to be vigilant.

  17. kanzensakura says:

    I am hearing more and more about this.

  18. Elaine says:

    Great info Sheri! Thank you for sharing it!

  19. This is a really helpful post, as I think we often hear about identity theft, but don’t always think of the long-term implications. Thanks, Sheri! 🙂

    • Identity theft is a nightmare onto itself but once a thief has your Medical Identity, this one card provides the info to every door they need. It provides access to social security number, address, and on and on. The theft is literally able to erase you from society and take your identity and create an entirely new one for themselves. Over the past 6 to 8 years, individuals making fake passports have preferred medical identity over any other because they are able to make a much more reliable product.

  20. ksbeth says:

    i was not aware of this at all. thank you for bringing this to light. it is amazing the lengths that people with go to, for personal gain at the expense of others.

  21. Scary and boy the point about not leaving your mail unopened is good advice to catch it in time. We live in a different world than the familiar family doctor doing a home visit.

  22. rabbiadar says:

    Sheri, you keep coming up with new ways to stand my hair on end! But thank you – very much – for telling us about it.

    • Ruth – Well – I worked in the field so many years, I guess it’s in my blood. If I see or hear something that I believe might be of help, I feel duty bound to pass it along. The average person on the street probably doesn’t often think about the value of their medical identity – that is until someone else has it and then it’s too late to do anything about it.

  23. willowdot21 says:

    This is just horrendous!

  24. Great post about this, Sheri. I had never even heard of it until you mentioned it and it should be of particular interest to anyone who has medical insurance. Thanks so much for informing us.

    • Patti – I apologize for my slow response to your comment. I almost didn’t post anything about this crime thinking everyone would be aware of it. Now, I’m glad I went ahead and posted as there’s so much to lose if someone gets your insurance information. Once they have your insurance info, they have access to everything else to include your SSN, driver’s license number, address, telephone, income taxes and on and on. We can never be too careful.

  25. cindy knoke says:

    I had no idea! I always learn new things from Sheri~

  26. This is shattering information, Sheri. Who would have thought, not that long ago, that theft of these proportions could be rampant. So many ways to destroy you, your health while you fight for clarity, and benefits of same. I hope this is considered a serious crime and just a slap on the wrists with a 6-month jail sentence (if you catch the thief / thieves). 😦

  27. Thanks, Sheri. As always, a very helpful blog.

    • David – Thanks for stopping by. I keep thinking I’m going to get caught up with my reading and I’ll be at your place soon. You were in insurance and know just how serious of a crime this is. Maybe one of the benefits of the new FICA laws will be our ability to see all of our medical files. We’ll be able to see if the information entered is correct or not.

  28. mihrank says:

    This is one of the most valuable blogs which brings to us important facts. Way to Go!

  29. mihrank says:

    Reblogged this on mihran Kalaydjian and commented:
    How Much Is Your Medical Idenity Worth?

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