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The Dangers of Medical Identity Fraud

    As health care costs continue to escalate across the country, medical identity theft is becoming an increasingly worrisome concern.  A 2003 federal report found that at least 200,000 instances of medical identity fraud occur every year, and many victims may be unaware of it unless they receive a hospital bill.  This type of fraud is not only financially damaging, but could potentially be physically damaging if there are erroneous diagnoses on your record.  Victims could receive improper treatment, injury, or even face death if they are treated based on false information that is contained in their medical record due to fraud. 

    Just as frightening is how difficult a problem this is to fix.  Clearing medical records is very different than fixing a credit report, as medical reports can be scattered across a variety of offices and channels and federal privacy rules that protect private information can make it impossible for one to even see their own medical record.  As a result, the victim must prove themselves to not only the hospitals, but the bill collectors and credit agencies as well.

    If this problem concerns you, consider asking your physicians to require photo identification along with your health insurance card every time an appointment is made in your name.  This may decrease your chances of becoming a victim of medical identity theft in the near future.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 8, 2006 edition

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