A Clean Bill of Health: Keeping Your Medical Information Safe

The nightmare begins when someone uses a stolen identity to rack up medical bills and file false insurance claims. When medical records are tainted with false history and diagnoses, critical treatment can be delayed, and the wrong medications can be prescribed with dangerous consequences. That’s why it’s so important to be on the lookout for medical identity theft.

1. Review bills closely. Medical bills and insurance statements may contain important signs that you are a victim of medical identity theft. Open and carefully review each medical document you receive, checking the itemized costs. If something looks suspicious, investigate by calling right away.

2. Regularly check your medical and pharmaceutical records. Keep a list of the names and contacts for doctors, pharmacies and other healthcare providers you have visited in the past and refer back to this list in the event a problem arises. Check your pharmacy records and be sure all prescriptions are really yours.

3. Check every medical insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB). When your insurance provider sends an EOB, check the services charged against your own list of doctors visited, treatments received and dates of service.

4. Know your rights under HIPAA. If you think you’re a victim, you should obtain a copy of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, to learn your rights under the law. Every hospital and insurer must publish a copy of practices and privacy rules in compliance with HIPAA and must make them available upon request. If you see a HIPAA violation in a medical setting, ask about it.

5. Ask your healthcare provider if they have a privacy policy and how it’s enforced. Find out if that policy applies to their vendors, such as third-party billing companies. Does your dentist keep your records in a locked cabinet? Does your doctor use a crosscut shredder? Was your ID checked when you signed in? Smaller healthcare providers may not be aware of things they can do beyond HIPAA regulations.

6. Check your medical records regularly. The process of requesting and obtaining your medical records can be time-consuming and expensive, but it can reveal serious medical fraud issues. At a minimum, keep a list of the names and contacts for doctors and other healthcare providers you have visited in the past and refer back to this list in the event of an issue.