The Federal Trade Commission has released “Medical Identity Theft FAQs for Health Care Providers and Health Plans,” which has advice for how to protect patients from identity theft. Some highlights:
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.
- 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.