Anyone can become a victim of medical identity theft which can be a great risk to a patient’s well-being. But elderly patients can be at higher risk because their Medicare coverage is a popular target for insurance fraud and because they may be less aware of the potential for identity theft.
If you help an older family member or friend with medical care, here are some steps you can take to protect them:
- Keep track of their medical ID cards. Whether they keep track of the card or you do, make sure it’s kept in a safe place at home, preferably in a locked file cabinet or safe, and shared only with healthcare providers.
- Check their EOBs. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that Medicare fraud alone costs the program nearly $100 billion per year, and much of that fraud is double-billing by medical providers or billing for treatment that was never provided. If you handle the paperwork, check any Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements carefully for any discrepancies and report them immediately. If your elderly patient handles the paperwork, educate them to do the same.
- Coach them not to share. Criminals sometimes conduct medical identity theft scams by phone or email, so warn elders never to give out medical or other personal information online or over the phone, unless they called the doctor’s office directly. Above all, make sure they never lend their medical ID card to another person to get care, as that can put misinformation in their medical record that could lead to medical errors down the line.
- Be alert at appointments. If a medical identity is stolen, the patient’s medical record can be contaminated with another person’s information. Studies show that Baby Boomers and older generations tend not to question authority, so they may not question a doctor’s decisions, even if those decisions might be based on wrong information. If you go along to appointments, speak up if a recommendation or prescription seems out of line with the patient’s medical history. If you don’t, let your family member or friend know that it’s OK to ask questios and speak up.
Ageing has its inevitable challenges, but with a bit of awareness and care, the pain of medical identity theft won’t have to be one of them.