Medical Identity Theft – A Growing Risk for Consumers

Going to a doctor is not necessary a joy for anyone. To go and sit in a waiting room with other people and deal with the coughing, sneezing, and whining of sick people is enough to drive any person beyond insane. When we have medical issues that we cannot treat for ourselves, there isn’t much choice. So, we call the office, make an appointment and begrudgingly go so that we can find relief for what is ailing us.

We get to the office, sign-in, fill out any required paperwork, see a practitioner, pay the bill and go out the door to continue on with our busy routines. Do we even take a moment to stop and think that our medical information is in jeopardy? No, most of us don’t, but according to a recent report by the Ponemon Institute we really need to pay more attention to how our medical records are handled. For example, the report titled the “2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft” stated that a vast majority of people do not consider medical identity theft a big problem. “Of the respondents interviewed, 78 percent said it was important to take control of their health records, but they had not done so. In incidents of identity theft, 29 percent were discovered in a medical record, the Ponemon Institute reported” (Horowitz, B., para.7). In addition, out of the 788 participants in the survey “56 percent of consumers fail to check their health records because they’re not sure how and simply trust their doctor to keep their records accurate, according to the survey” (Horowitz, B., para.6).

Consumers may find these numbers staggering given the fact that medical identity theft affected over 1 and a half million consumers in 2013. Unfortunately, this number is almost a one-quarter increase when compared to the previous year. According to Brian Horowitz, “In 2013, about 313,000 medical identity theft cases were reported, the Ponemon Institute said. In its 2012 survey, the institute revealed that 52 percent of health organizations had reported an occurrence of medical identity theft. Theft of this kind has affected 1.84 million victims in the United States to date, and the number of individuals affected has increased 20 percent in the last year, according to the survey” (Horowitz, B., para. 8 & 9).

This increase may be contributed to the fact that many reports on medical identity theft state that the majority of the problem stems from family and friends sharing their medical coverage information with each other and then as time goes by and human error comes into play, the originators of the sharing either do not remember sharing their information or in rare cases do remember but will not own up to that fact and leave the identity theft unsolved.

In conclusion, people need to be vigilant with their medical coverage information. Even though it is easy to feel sympathetic toward family and friends who do not have adequate medical coverage, in order to alleviate the problem of medical identity theft, help family and friends find low-cost or free medical resources in the community rather than share your medical coverage with them.