A Harper University Hospital employee has stolen 1,087 patient identifications. The Detroit Medical Center in collaboration with Harper University Hospital has sent out letters to the affected patients, with information regarding the theft. The Hospital was alerted by the West Bloomfield police after finding related documents while investigating an identity theft case. According to The Washington Times, the documents in question include patient names, social security numbers, and dates of birth, as well as reasons for visiting the hospital. The Detroit Medical Center officials conducted an internal investigation as soon they were informed of the fraud. The hospital, in collaboration with the Detroit Medical Center is taking responsibility by offering free credit monitoring to the victims of the theft. The secret service has now been involved in the investigation, releasing only that another hospital is also involved.
MSN Money reports that hospital identity theft and fraud is on the rise with patient information being sold, and used to receive medical care and benefits. It is recommended that patients guard their social security and Medicare numbers carefully and only provide them when absolutely necessary, and if needed request a manager to provide the information asked. MSN Money also advises to watch out for scammers who will call patient homes providing free equipment or services in exchange for a patients Medicare number. They have also been known to approach victims with the alleged medical surveys in parking lots. It is recommended that patients verify all hospital documentation for inaccuracies regarding services received and immediately report to Medicaid or their hospital if any show up. It is also advised to regularly monitor your credit score.
Harper University Hospital’s 1,087 victims only cover a small percentage of a growing issue.In a the 2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft, conducted by the Ponemon Institute it was reported that there where over 300,000 victims of identity theft by September of 2013, representing a 19 percent increase as compared to the previous year. The survey involved 788 participants who have either been victims of medical identity theft, or have close family members who have been victims of this crime. The report states that most victims are unaware that changes in their medical records created by others using their identity can create life threatening inaccuracies. These may lead to misdiagnosis, prescription errors, and mistreatment. 56 percent of the respondents do not check their medical records to confirm accuracy. Yet 39 percent of the surveyed victims lost their health insurance coverage, and 43 percent had to make out of pocket payments in order to restore their coverage, with 24 percent becoming aware of the fraud through a collection letter.
The Hill reports that the United States loses on average $20.9 billion on identity fraud, with medical identity theft growing at a staggering rate. Patients are advised to be aware of their medical billings by reviewing them and questioning any discrepancies to their health provider, and insurance companies. Harper University Hospital is only one of many hospitals that have had patient information stolen; it is up to the patients to future lower the risk of victimization.
By Dony Lugo