Springfield, IL… With medical ID theft on the rise, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) is pushing for Illinois to protect victims and specifically add it to the state Criminal Code.
“As medical prices skyrocket, medical ID theft is becoming more and more prevalent.” Rep. McDermed said. “However, because it’s not as easily identifiable or rectified like simple credit card theft, for many victims the crime doesn’t surface until unthinkable damage has been done. Victims are often left with serious ramifications like maxed out insurance and altered medical records.”
When your medical identity is stolen it can be used to steal expensive medical services, prescription drugs, to procure medical devices or equipment, to falsify insurance claims, or to acquire government benefits like Medicare and Medicaid. Not only can thieves rack up medical bills, but it is also possible that their own medical treatment, history, and diagnoses can get mixed up with your own electronic health records impacting your own care and treatment. Current consumer protections aren’t specifically designed for medical identity theft, leaving victims on the hook for fraudulent medical expenses. Last year the federal government issued new Medicare cards that removed Social Security Numbers in an effort to crack down on Medicare fraud, but there are still serious lapses in state and federal law.
All states have identity theft legislation on the books, but very few specifically address medical identity theft, including Illinois. House Bill 1656 seeks to rectify that by adding medical and health insurance information to the definitions of identity theft in the Illinois Criminal Code. This will help protect victims of medical identity theft from being sued by medical providers and ordered to pay for services they never received.
“It’s startling how ill-equipped the healthcare industry is prepared to handle fraud compared to the financial world.” Rep. McDermed continued. “We need to act to protect these victims, but in the meantime, I encourage everyone to be vigilant and secure their medical insurance card.” According to the FTC, signs of medical identity theft include:
· a bill for medical services you didn’t receive
· a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe
· a medical collection notices on your credit report that you don’t recognize
· a notice from your health plan saying you reached your benefit limit
· a denial of insurance because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
HB 1656 has been filed and is in the Rules Committee awaiting committee assignment.