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Protect against medical identity thieves

TOPEKA, KS — A recent news release I read said that one in three Americans had their health records breached in 2015, either through computer hacking or information technology problems.

Medical identity thieves—whether they hack in to a third-party website or directly steal your personal information—can use your name or health insurance information to make appointments with health care providers, get prescription drugs, make claims to insurance companies, or get medical equipment.

Those fraudulent medical activities can falsify your medical records, cost insurance companies billions of dollars ($320 billion annually, according to a recent estimate), and ultimately raise the cost of your health insurance premiums. The toll is high, both in dollars and personal security.

What can you look for to protect your information? The Federal Trade Commission has compiled a list of some possible signs that your medical identity has been compromised. They include the following:

  • A bill for services you didn’t receive
  • A call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe
  • Medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize
  • A denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have

Randy Adair, the Kansas Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Division Director, makes numerous presentations yearly about how to protect your personal information and what to do if you think someone has stolen it. Here are some of the points he makes.

“Free” health services may not be. Be careful in responding to offers of free health services or products that require you to provide your health plan identification number. Don’t be tricked into giving out personal information.

Don’t share insurance information by phone or email. The only exception might be if you initiated the call, and you know the person on the other end of the message can be trusted.

Keep your insurance and health records in a safe place. Better yet, shred all old documents, especially labels from prescription bottles.

If you think your information has been stolen, ask for your medical files. You have the right to those files, and you can check them for errors.

Keeping your health information secure has become a major concern of insurance companies and insurance regulators throughout the country. With the number of cybersecurity attacks that occurred during the past two years, both industry and regulatory agencies such as state insurance departments have called for increased safeguards for businesses protecting your information.

But personal responsibility in guarding and reviewing your information is your first line of defense.

We at the Kansas Insurance Department can also help. If you suspect that your information has been stolen or compromised, call our Anti-Fraud Division at 800-432-2484.

Source: Kansas Insurance Department

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