We heard it before. Perhaps your sister’s credit card numbers were used to purchase all kinds of items on the Internet or your niece’ identification records has been used to get credit cards. Or perhaps it’s your personal information that has been used criminally.
Identity theft is not something new although it is a new kind of crime that never existed years ago. And while we have been given some guidelines about the ways to protect ourselves and our kids, there are always some cases that can surprise you and leave you wondering “why would someone even do that? And why did they think that they can just get away with it?”
In one of the news released by WFTV.com, a medical assistant is accused of illegally using patient’s records to collect insurance money.
Selina Rodriguez works as medical assistant at Mid-Florida Urological Associates that runs big hospitals like Orlando Regional Medical Center. Medical assistants, especially those working in ambulatory settings, have clinical and administrative duties. Their administrative duties include maintaining medical records, billing, and coding information for insurance purposes.
With access to such information, it was easy for Rodriguez to pretend that she was the mother of those children who have been admitted to the hospital.
One victim was Nevaeh Solchenberger, an 8-year- old kid who broke her arms and legs and dislocated her hips from an accident in 2011. Selina Rodriguez used Solchenberger’s records to file for insurance claims and was able to collect $15,000 from the insurance company after she claimed to be the mother of the girl.
Another victim was Austin Barnes who has been hospitalized due to head injury after being thrown over the wall of Monkey Joes. Rodriguez was able to collect $37,000 for the boy’s insurance.
Those are just 2 victims. According to state agents, Rodriguez made about 5 more false insurance claims and was able to collect more than a hundred thousand dollars for those.
The victim’s families were not aware of it until Rodriguez was arrested during a check-cashing scheme last year. As the investigators searched her car, they found several patients’ health records inside and later learned that Rodriguez was using a Mid-Florida Urological doctor’s password to access the patient’s records.
According to a study conducted by Ponemon Institute, there is an estimated 1.5 million cases of medical identity theft in the United States. It is another form of identity fraud that involves stealing insurance information or tampering medical history to make fraudulent claims. Another scenario is when someone steals your identity to obtain healthcare services, prescriptions, or medical devices without paying for them.
Aside from financial damage, medical identity theft also carries the extra danger of creating errors on the legitimate person’s medical file, which could lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment when a victim seeks for medical care in the future.
The problem with medical identity theft is that it usually takes a while before someone discovers that he or she has become a victim. Physican and pharmacy bills are often directed to the insurance companies so that the impostor can rack up bills using stolen identity without any signs or warnings to the victim until he or she is denied for coverage of a procedure or discover mistakes on his medical files.
How to Protect Yourself from Medical Identity Theft
- Inspect your medical bills and insurance statements thoroughly. Look for fees from healthcare providers you do not recognize or services you did not obtain, doctors you never visited, or prescriptions you have never filled.
If you don’t receive them regularly, you may request your insurance provider to send you with medical claims history periodically.
- Most insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid send an Explanation of Benefits after each service is received. Make sure that you receive it personally and review it thoroughly.
- Request for an accounting of disclosures of health information from your doctor or hospital for you to know which organization or with whom your personal information and medical records were shared.
- If any of your ID or document that contains critical information about you is lost, notify your insurance company immediately. The loss of your insurance card may be the beginning of medical identity theft.