your medical files in the aftermath of identity theft can be arduous.
With no current centralized record-keeping entity and no established procedures
for rectifying ID theft situations, victims must rely on the kindness
of the hospitals or service providers that dealt with the fraudsters.
Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, says the ability to correct your records can vary dramatically from one hospital to another. "You can go to a hospital in one state and be treated one way and then you go to another hospital in another state and be treated in an entirely different way," she says.
As with financial identity theft, filing a police report marks the first step in recovering from the crime. It will signal your seriousness about correcting the fraud and possibly save yourself from legal trouble down the road in case your doppelganger engaged in other illegal shenanigans.
One victim lost her wallet and filed a police report, says Dixon. Later the thief impersonated her to obtain a large amount of pain medication.
"This woman created a lot of legal problems for the victim, and had she not filed a police report, she would have been in a lot of trouble," Dixon says.
Dixon usually hears the same complaints from victims of medical ID theft. The first is that the hospital would not give them their medical files.
Victims should obtain a copy of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, to learn their rights under the law. Every hospital and insurer must publish a copy of practices and privacy rules in compliance with HIPAA and must make them available at request.
The frequently asked questions section of the World Privacy Forum Web site details the rights of patients when it comes to their medical records as well as the limitations.
A second complaint Dixon often hears: Getting fraudulent information deleted from medical files is nearly impossible.
"Under HIPAA you have no legal right to demand a complete deletion of anything from your medical file. Even if it's not yours or was entered fraudulently, it doesn't matter: You don't have that legal right," she says.
Records may be amended and notations added, but that isn't always sufficient, she says.
The third most common complaint she hears involves collections. Without the hospital or service provider on your side, collections offices won't give up going after victims.
"The recovery process can take a very long time -- six months to a year. Even as long as two years or never. Because some hospitals won't work with you. Some will and some won't," says Dixon.