This is part 1 of a 4-part series on medical identity theft.

With all of the healthcare data breaches this year, medical identity theft has become a major concern. This is the first in a series of in-depth articles by MIFA Founding Member ID Experts on this potentially life-threatening crime.

The number of Americans whose healthcare information has been disclosed in data breaches — 140,000,000 in the past few years, nearly half of all Americans — is enough to make anyone feel slightly ill. Yet only a percentage have fallen victim to actual medical identity theft, 2.3 million adult patients in 2014, according to the latest Ponemon Institute study on this topic.

So this poses an important question: Is medical identity theft that big of a deal?

According to a recent New York Times article, aptly named “Stolen Consumer Data Is a Smaller Problem Than It Seems,” the answer is no — at least for identity theft in general. While the author admits to the horrors of identity theft, he says “consumers are almost never on the hook for financial losses in these sorts of episodes, which, by the way, have also been on the decline.”

In fact, he writes, “This relatively sanguine picture of the impact of data breaches is an example of a threat that looks worse than it turns out to be. The sheer size of hackings shocks and startles when the attacks are first reported, but it’s rare that journalists check on the actual consequences.”

The picture is not so sanguine for victims of medical identity theft. The number of victims has nearly doubled in five years, according to Ponemon, and the health consequences of this crime will never be cured with credit monitoring, the traditional SOP of comfort offered to victims. And privacy laws, which in some cases appear to protect the thief more than the patient, can cause the problem to drag on for years.

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the havoc medical identity theft can have on its victims:

  • A man with Down syndrome was billed for a leg-injury treatment that he never received. In addition, his health record was contaminated with the thief’s medical information, including a drug allergy he didn’t have.
  • An undocumented immigrant used somebody else’s name to get a liver transplant.
  • A retired Florida woman with two feet was billed for an amputated foot.
  • A man was unable to fill his legitimate prescriptions because his medical benefits had been “looted.”

Click here to read the full blog.

Read part 2: Medical Identity Theft: How Healthcare Data Breaches Turn Patients into Victims

September 3, 2015 by ID Experts