Medical Identity Theft Increased in 2014

Identity Theft & Fraud Blogs

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The 2014 Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft sponsored by the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA) found that medical identity theft increased nearly 22 percent in the last year, with nearly half a million more victims in 2014 than in 2013. To obtain a copy of this study, which was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, please visit http://medidfraud.org/2014-fifth-annual-study-on-medical-identity-theft/.

“Over the past five years, we’ve seen medical identity theft steadily rising with no signs of slowing,” Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, stated in a press release. “Our research shows more than two million Americans were victims of medical identity theft in 2014, nearly a quarter more than the number of people impacted last year.”

Overall, the study estimated that 2.32 million Americans have been victims of medical identity theft. The study also suggested that 65 percent of medical identity theft victims had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime. Medical identity theft victims also experience risks related to their healthcare such as misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and delayed healthcare. Some of the key findings from the 2014 Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft include:

  • Medical identity theft is costly to consumers: Unlike credit card fraud, victims of medical identity theft can suffer significant financial consequences. Sixty-five percent of medical identity theft victims surveyed paid more than $13,000 to resolve the crime. In 2014, medical identity theft cost consumers more than $20 billion in out-of-pocket costs. The number of victims experiencing out-of-pocket cost rose significantly from 36 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2014.
  • Medical identity theft is a complicated crime: In the case of medical identity theft, victims are seldom informed by their healthcare provider or insurer. On average, victims learn about the theft of their credentials more than three months following the crime and 30 percent do not know when they became a victim. Of those respondents (54 percent) who found an error in their Explanation of Benefits, about half did not know to whom to report the claim.
  • Resolution of medical identity theft is time consuming and may never occur: Due to federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations, victims of medical identity theft must be involved in resolution of the crime. In many cases, victims struggle to reach resolution following a medical identity theft incident. Only 10 percent of survey respondents reported achieving completely satisfactory conclusion of the incident. Consequently, many respondents are at risk for further theft or errors in healthcare records that could jeopardize medical treatments and diagnosis.
  • Medical identity theft can cause embarrassment; negatively impact consumer confidence: Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) say medical identity theft affected their reputation in some way. Of those, nearly 90 percent suffered embarrassment stemming from disclosure of sensitive personal health conditions and more than 20 percent of respondents believe the theft caused them to miss out on career opportunities or lose employment.
  • Consumers expect healthcare providers to be proactive in preventing and detecting medical identity theft: Although respondents are not confident in the security practices of their healthcare provider, the vast majority (79 percent) of respondents expect their healthcare providers to ensure the privacy of their health records. Forty-eight percent say they would consider changing healthcare providers if their medical records were lost or stolen. If a breach does occur, 40 percent expect prompt notification to come from the responsible organization.

The 2014 Fifth Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft measures the prevalence, extent, and impact of medical identity theft to consumers and the healthcare industry in the United States. The MIFA Founding Member companies are Kaiser Permanente, ID Experts Corporation, Experian Data Breach Resolution and Identity Finder, LLC.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the nation’s consumer protection agency – offers a Medical Identity Theft webpage with information on detecting medical identity theft, correcting mistakes in medical records, protecting medical information, and checking for other identity theft problems. The page is at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0171-medical-identity-theft.

More ESR News Blogs about Identity Theft

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