Service of a New Twist on Identity Theft: A Hemorrhage in Medical Care

August 13th, 2015

Categories: Identity Theft, Medical Administration, Medical Care, Theft

identity theft

Identity theft has spread from retail and banks to hospitals according to Stephanie Armour who reported the new contamination in her Wall Street Journal article, “How Identity Theft Sticks You With Hospital Bills: Thieves use stolen personal data to get treatment, drugs, medical equipment.

The only way that Kathleen Meiners, the mother of a man in his 30s with Down syndrome, could stop harassment by a hospital that claimed he’d had an operation was through the newspaper’s intervention.  Mrs. Meiners figured her son would quickly be off the hook after bringing him to the hospital so staff could see he’d had no procedure for a leg injury. But someone had to pay for the operation the identity thief had undergone so the hospital, ER physicians and radiologist continued to go after her son, eventually via collection agencies.

There’s more. With the thief’s medical charts “folded into” the victim’s, a person who doesn’t have diabetes might be shown to have it or the thief’s blood type might be listed as theirs. Mrs. Meiner’s son had no drug allergies but was listed as having some. Guess what? The victim can’t see the messed up medical records to untangle them because of privacy laws that protect the thief’s information.

Mrs. Meiners son isn’t alone. Armour wrote about a Florida woman who was charged for a foot amputation who showed up at the hospital to point out her two feet to no avail. A man learned someone had stolen all his benefits when he was refused a prescription refill.

Armour continued, “Fueling medical identity theft is the surge in electronic medical records and data breaches at insurers and health-care providers. Medical identity theft—in which someone fraudulently uses data to bill for medical services—affected 2.3 million adult patients in 2014 versus 1.4 million in 2009, according to a survey published in February by the Ponemon Institute LLC, a research concern.”

EmergencyTo help stem the tide, insurance companies have formed a Medical Identity Fraud Alliance and the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] and the Justice Department are also investigating, according to Armour. And hospitals are getting into the act she wrote.  BayCare Health System in Florida asks patients if they want the veins in a palm scanned which is then “converted into a number that correlates with the patient’s medical record.” Other hospitals ask to see photo ID and are increasing digital security. Medicare cards distributed by HHS will no longer imbed social security numbers or show code according to a law the President signed in April.

“Unlike in financial identity theft,” wrote Armour, “health identity-theft victims can remain on the hook for payment because there is no health-care equivalent of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which limits consumers’ monetary losses if someone uses their credit information.” In Ponemon’s survey “65% of victims reported they spent an average of $13,500 to restore credit, pay health-care providers for fraudulent claims and correct inaccuracies in their health records.”

Armour reported that social security, Medicare and Medicaid numbers are sold on the black market for $50 vs. $6-$7 for a credit card number. The latter can be cancelled quickly hence the lesser value. “Sometimes, health-care providers are the perpetrators,” she wrote. “Federal prosecutors charged Dr. Kenneth Johnson with using Manor Medical Imaging, a Glendale, Calif. clinic, to write prescriptions for drugs and then sell them on the black market.”

Were you aware of this twist in identity theft? What can be done about it?

Identity theft 2

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10 Responses to “Service of a New Twist on Identity Theft: A Hemorrhage in Medical Care”

  1. ccs Said:

    What a horror show! Yes, I was vaguely aware of the problem because it is obviously a variation on the theme of identity theft, but I was not at all aware of the extent of the risk.

    This is one more example of how badly medical care is falling apart in this country, unless you are very rich. Two personal recent examples of this collapse are my being refused coverage by Medicare for disease-related prescribed physical therapy because of an automobile accident in 2010 in which onone was hurt, and my superb main doctor for the past thirty years having to reduce his staff radically, because he is not making enough money to be able to pay their wages.

    What to do about it?

    1. Slow down. Back off computerization until security and user education catches up with technology. Get the machines out and the care back into medicine.

    2. Get rid of the insurance companies and other intermediaries in medicine. 40% of all medical expenses are now for administration that has little to do with health but a lot to do with making money. If you cannot afford, or do not want, to pay for your own medical care, you go to a government employed doctor or hospital and take what you get. If you can afford, or are willing to pay, for your medical care you should be free to hire whom you please.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Trouble with your number 2 suggestion is that it will only work if by implementing practical cost-cutting measures that do not affect treatment, the cost of medicine and care is drastically reduced. Otherwise, only one percent of the population will be able to pay for top flight medical care in this country. This will affect the numbers of great doctors here in future as there won’t be enough work for them.

    I bet insurance to protect people from medical identity theft, when and if it is introduced, will cost a fortune.

    I can’t believe that a hospital administrator, looking at a woman with two feet who is being charged for a foot amputation, can do so with a straight face. Imagine what a horrible job that must be!

    I often use the image of being spun around with blinders on, as in the game of pin the tail on the donkey. This situation brings it to mind yet again.

  3. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: Yikes, something NEW to worry about!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    To be aware of at least. I wish there were ways to protect ones-self but don’t think that there are and that’s scary.

  5. CG Said:

    This is absolutely unbelievable. Does anyone know if this problem exists in other countries?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A partial answer to your question was in another article on the subject written in March of this year on–the link to the article is below:

    Some experts have proposed an even more radical solution to stop identity theft: single-payer health care. “It seems like the public health or single payer model, like in the U.K., has great equity, and the motivation to share [insurance credentials] doesn’t exist because everyone has that baseline access to medicine,” Larry Poneman, the founder of cybersecurity firm Poneman Institute, told Fortune. “This concept of medical identity theft is very foreign in countries that provide health insurance to their citizenry.”

    Read more:

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    I was appalled when I read this post. Unfortunately I was not aware of this horrendous phenomenon, I had been asked for a license at check-in at my last medical appointments at a major Boston hospital. I was informed that they are no longer going to be using hospital I.D. cards. I did not understand the full significance of this administrative change although there was a very casual reference to security.

    It appears that there is no immediate solution, if any. It is impossible to fathom the disasters including fatalities that inevitably are caused by this fraud. It seems that the most important thing to do is what this article does, which is to call attention to the problem. Doctors, politicians, social workers, lawyers, and clergy should be made aware of the extent of this problem. Serious attention must be paid to the possibilities of consumer protection and examination of legal possibilities for prevention and alleviating the endless burden on the victims.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Our reactions match. I figured many people don’t know about this. Should someone be faced with a voluntary hospital procedure, he/she might want to ask what kind of security measures a hospital takes. If the answer sounds airy-fairy, they will know that the database is easily hackable and that their ID is in jeopardy.

    As I read your comment I had a thought: What about punishing the faux patients? Make the punishment bad enough and it might stop some of them.

    If the medical establishment must protect the privacy of the identity thief, can we assume that somebody knows who each of these people are? And if not, the law should be changed making an exception of the protection of their medical records, allowing the victim, at the least, to extricate the inaccurate information be it blood type, allergies or disease history.

    And last, if the authorities know about a black market for these IDs and the cost, how come they can’t develop a sting operation to stop the sales?

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Never heard of this but it’s not surprising. The actions here should be treated as fraud. This could be exposed fast enough in the cases such as existing two feet by allowing charges to be brought to court. Chances are such cases would be thrown out, with victims now able to sue for damages.

    It seems that all medical entities should fully check the identity of those filing for payment. Crooks may not get caught, but they would be unable to collect.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I imagine that if it would be profitable there would be contingency lawyers lining up to handle such cases but there aren’t. That must either be because there’s not enough money in such cases or there are laws that prevent them.

    Your second idea got me thinking of more ideas in this regard but they all landed up against a wall. If the hospital checked that the surgeon knew the patient the surgeon, whose administrator had also been bamboozled by false identity, would say “yes,” and the theft would go through undetected.

    We toss garbage out at the dump and we divide it up between plastic/bottles; paper and wet garbage. I noticed that my husband had tossed a bunch of adverts with his or my name and address intact and perhaps subscription codes or other potentially identifiable information easy for someone to pluck. After writing this post–Mrs. Meiners was told there’s no way to trace how her son’s medical identity theft happened and when my credit card number was stolen a few months back I was told the same thing–I took a scissors to each one. May be late in the game and it’s far easier to catch us through our Internet activity than by sorting through paper garbage but….

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