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It Ain’t Funny, To The Victims

Medical Identity Theft is No Laughing Matter


It Ain’t Funny, To The Victims
Getty/Kelly Castro

Occasionally, your Guide is able to bring you more information than just what he has crammed in his head. It has always been advisable to get information from as many different sources as you can, in order to make an informed opinion. So, when Mac McMillan shares his thoughts on medical identity theft and the various data security issues that surround the problem, you can bet they will be posted here.

This month, Mac (apparently) went to check out the new movie called Identity Thief, and wasn't any happier than your Guide was about the fun poked at a real problem. Perhaps, if identity theft were taken more seriously by the mainstream, we would both have different takes.

I often speak about the differences between medical identity theft and, for lack of a better term, routine identity theft. Medical identity theft has two noteworthy characteristics that make it especially harmful to those it affects. First, it is a persistent threat because generally you and I cannot change our medical histories. Second, because it can lead to medical errors, wrong diagnosis and worst of all harm to the patient, it represents a real patient safety issue. This in addition to the standard financial hardship and stress that identity theft causes its victims. Recently a movie was released in theatres across the country that seeks to make identity theft look comical, but it is anything but a laughing matter.

So I thought it might be a good time to look at the negative impacts of identify theft. We consider six victims in different geographic locations who encountered medical identity theft and had their lives irrevocably changed as a result. Let's start with Anndorie and see if we’re still having fun. After having her driver’s license stolen Anndorie found herself embroiled in a battle with the Utah Division of Child Protective Services over the custody of her four children. Seems the person who stole her identity used it to have a baby in a local hospital, whose blood work identified the presence of methamphetamines, and then abandoned the child.

Dr. Lisa learned of her misfortune when a string of collection notices for medical treatments she had not received undermined her refinancing of her home.

Similarly, Brandon was trying to buy a house when his credit turned up having multiple unpaid emergency visits all over the country. Many places he had never been.

Bryan’s nightmare started with the discovery that he was buying addictive narcotics at multiple pharmacies and continued with the revelation that the person who had stolen his identity was none other than his ex-wife.

Twenty years after her identity theft incident Vicki is still trying to remove a blood test from her record that is not hers. That blood test has affected her ability to receive insurance coverage.

Last but not least, we have the case of Arnold who is still dealing with collection notices from multiple hospitals for extensive services he did not received. His problems began in 2005 and continue today.

What do all of these people have in common? Their quality of life has been significantly impacted by a crime they did not commit, and their pain has transcended for years in most cases. Hopefully no one is laughing at this point. There is nothing funny about this issue. It costs the healthcare industry millions every year. It costs individuals thousands and robs them of options in life. It costs the rest of us millions in higher charges or insurance premiums. It puts lives at risk by denial of coverage and directly endangers lives by erroneous information in medical records.

In the aggregate, identity theft contributes heftily to the billions of dollars in fraud we experience each year as a nation. This is money that the average American can’t afford to lose.

Identity theft is not funny Hollywood, but the movie is. Hopefully in addition to an enjoyable night out folks will also realize how prevalent and damaging identity theft can be. Hopefully the movie will raise awareness.

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