The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, has information for health care providers and insurers about how to help patients minimize the risk of medical identity theft and deal with the consequences if they become victims of it. Here are the highlights of the FTC’s new publication, Medical Identity Theft FAQs for Health Care Providers and Health Plans:
- How would people know if they’re victims of medical identity theft? They could be billed for medical services they didn’t receive, contacted by a debt collector about a medical debt they don’t owe, see medical collection notices on their credit report that they don’t recognize, be told by their health plan that they’ve reached their limit on benefits, or be denied insurance because their medical records show a condition they don’t have.
- What should health care providers and insurers do if they learn that a patient may be the victim of medical identity theft? They should conduct an investigation, understand their obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, review their data security practices, and provide any necessary notifications that a data breach has occurred.
- What should health care providers and insurers tell a patient who is the victim of medical identity theft? They should:
- advise victims to take advantage of their rights under the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule.
- encourage victims or potential victims to notify their health plans.
- tell victims to file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by phone at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; and to check out the information at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
- encourage victims to file a report with local police, and send copies of the report to their health plan’s fraud department, their health care provider(s), and the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Information on how to file a police report and reach the credit reporting companies is at www.ftc.gov/idtheft/consumers/defend.html.
- encourage patients to look for signs of other misuses of their personal information by reviewing their credit reports. The law requires each of three major nationwide credit reporting companies to give people a free copy of their credit report each year if they ask for it at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or 1-877-322-8228. If they find inaccurate or fraudulent information, they can visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft to learn how to get it corrected or removed.
- How can health care providers and insurers help patients deter, detect, and defend against medical identity theft? They can order copies of the FTC’s consumer brochure, Medical Identity Theft in English or Spanish and make them available to patients. Bulk copies are available at http://bulkorder.ftc.gov. Health care providers and insurers can link to it, copy it, or adapt it for their websites or newsletters.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FYI medical identity theft)