How does HIPAA protect patient privacy?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996.  HIPAA is a privacy rule and limits what healthcare providers may share with others about a patient’s care, diagnosis and personal identifying information.  HIPAA also gives patients the right to obtain their medical records and the right to authorize others (such as their lawyer) to obtain medical records on the patient’s behalf.

Learn about your rights under HIPAA

Medical identity theft is identity theft.  Identity thieves may use someone else’s personal identifying information, including an insurance card or Social Security number, to get medical treatment or prescriptions.  The fraudulent use of someone else’s medical or personal information can have ill effects on identity theft victims.  For example, the identity theft victim’s medical record becomes polluted with inaccurate medical history.  Medical ID theft can also lead to collection calls from debt collectors for unpaid medical bills that were incurred by the identity thief.

Patients are also at risk for identity theft because of the personal identifying information they give to healthcare providers.  Healthcare providers store hard copies and electronic copies of patients’ most personal information, including date of birth and often Social Security numbers.  HIPAA requires healthcare providers to protect this sensitive information, but some healthcare workers are stealing patients’ personal information.

How do you know if you are victim of medical identity theft?

  • Have you received bills for medical services you did not receive?
  • Has a debt collector contacted you about a medical debt you do not owe?
  • Have you ordered your credit reports and found medical collection accounts that do not belong to you?
  • Have you tried to make an insurance claim and your health plan says that you have already reached your limit on benefits?
  • Have you been denied insurance because your medical records include a condition that you do not have?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may be a victim of medical identity theft.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides identity theft victims with rights and remedies under federal law.  Consumers have the right to request a free credit report from the nationwide consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  Consumers also have the right to dispute any inaccurate information, including medical debts.

If you have been a victim of medical identity theft and need more information about your rights under federal law, contact us for a free case review 24/7 at 1-800-263-9091.