Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Medical ID theft on the rise

By now, we've all heard about identity theft in which someone assumes another's identity to obtain credit or other financial benefits. It is, we are told, the fastest growing crime in North America. Well, now Americans have to worry about "medical" identity theft. This is where someone (presumably uninsured) assumes another's identity to obtain medical services. That's what happened to Joe Ryan of Littleton, Colorado. Ryan unexpectedly received a bill for $44,000 for surgery and then the collection agents started calling. It appears that someone used his name to have a significant piece of surgery and Ryan is left holding the bag. At least one group of hospitals in Denver has information about fifteen such cases a year.

Where ID theft can put your credit rating in jeopardy, medical ID theft can do all that and kill you: victims' medical records now reflect conditions they don't have. Somewhat ironically, the hospital in Ryan's case refused to provide him with information about the services used by the impostor since HIPAA apparently prevented them from disclosing it to him. Check out the report on Ryan's case by Colorado 9News' I-TEAM: ID theft that could be deadly. There's a video link on the 9News site, as well.

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