Day: June 16, 2021


How to Protect Yourself From Medical Identity Theft – The Crime That Kills

According to the American Health Information Management Association, medical identity theft accounts for 3% of identity theft crimes. The NY Times reports that 250,000 people a year who have their identities stolen are medical identity theft cases.

Medical Identity Theft affects individuals, healthcare providers, and health plans.

1. For the individual, it leads to a trail of false medical records and can plague your medical and financial life for many years. The elderly, newborns, minors, people whose medical information are on public registries (e.g. cancer registry) and individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities are particularly at risk for medical identity theft. Dead people are often targeted too.

2. A health care provider who incorrectly bills the victim for treatment provided to the identity thief may have to write off all the expenses related to the thief as he has trouble canceling health insurance claims that were made for the thief. His reputation can be damaged and his practice negatively affected.

3. The reputation of the health plan can be damaged too as they pre-approved and paid for the thief’s treatment which is applied to your annual or lifetime benefit allowance. They also store wrong medical information in its database and share it with the Medical Information Bureau.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question: What happens when a medical identity thief uses my name, social security number, and medical insurance information to get medical services from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, and pharmacies?
Answer: A false medical record is created in your name.

Question: How does that affect me?
Answer: In an emergency, you could be treated based on the wrong information and DIE as the new record contains the thief’s blood type, allergies, prescription drug use, and a history of his diseases.

Question: How can I find out if my medical identity has been stolen?
Answer: It is usually very difficult to discover that you are a victim of medical identity theft as it is often hidden in complex payment systems, databases, and medical records.

Question: When I find out that I have been a victim, how can I fix it?
Answer: It is even more difficult to correct. Under the federal law known as Hipaa (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) you are entitled to a copy of your medical records. However, once your information is mixed in with the thief’s information, you may have trouble getting your files as privacy laws regulate that the thief’s medical information, now in your records, must also be kept confidential.

Question: What can I do to correct my record?
Answer: Ten Steps to Get Your Medical Records Corrected

o Contact the health information manager, privacy officer, or anti-fraud hotline at the provider organization or health plan where the medical identity theft occurred.
o Request a copy of your medical records. If the provider organization or health plan refuses to give you access to your records, file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights or Health and Human Services at (866) 627-7748.
o Work with the organization where the medical identity theft occurred to stop the flow of incorrect information and correct the existing inaccurate health record entries.
o File a police report.
o File a complaint with the attorney general in the state where the medical identity theft occurred.
o Check with state authorities for resources.
o File a complaint with the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse operated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
o Contact the Department of Health and Human Service for Medicare or Medicaid fraud (800) 368-1019.
o Review health records to make sure they have been corrected prior to seeking healthcare.
o Change all personal identification numbers and passwords.

Once your medical identity has been stolen, your life becomes a nightmare as it is a life and death issue. All your energy is consumed with getting it back and it can take years. If you want to correct your record, you have to do it on a case-by-case basis as the wrong information may be in dozens of health care providers and insurance plan records. Until such time as all your records are corrected, you could be denied additional health, disability, or life insurance and your credit record could be permanently damaged.

I want to share with you the way I protect my medical identity and what kind of help I would get if my medical identity were stolen. I just love the Identity Protection Service I have as it monitors my social security number and medical insurance information every day for medical fraud, insurance and criminal records.

Check List to Determine whether an Identity Protection Service would be good for you:
o Would you like a service that protects your medical identity so it cannot be stolen?
o Would you like a service that monitors your social security number and medical insurance information every day so you would know right away if a thief has stolen your medical identity?
o Would you like your entire family to be protected, including your children to age 25 and senior dependents?
o Would you like to have an Expense Reimbursement Insurance Policy?
o Would you like to fully recover your identity by having a professional team of paralegals call the agencies, do the paper work, and cooperate with the police to help find the thief.



Why Americans Are Traveling to Mexico For Medical Care

Everyone in America is talking about healthcare reform, skyrocketing medical costs, and the increasing inability of average Americans to afford even the most fundamental medical and dental care due to unreasonably high costs. The news is full of statistics: 45 million people are without health insurance, and that figure is increasing every month as unemployment soars. Another 45 million are ‘under insured’ -that is, with out-of-pocket costs and deductibles so high that they are unable to afford doctor and hospital fees when the need arises. More than 110 million are currently without dental insurance and unable to get the care they need. Yet even the uninsured have another option. In response to rising healthcare costs at home, more U.S. citizens have gone abroad to take advantage of the excellent doctors and dentists available through medical tourism to Mexico.

Convenient, significantly less expensive, and featuring the same or a better quality of care, sophistication of treatment, and breadth of medical services as the U.S., Mexico’s state-of-the-art private hospitals make medical tourism to Mexico an ideal solution for anyone struggling with the high cost of medical expenses in America. Medical travel connects patients with new, modern facilities located in upscale residential and international business districts. There are a number of prominent Mexican hospitals in cities such as Tijuana, Monterrey, Juarez, Mexicali, Guadalajara, and Mexico City regularly working with medical travelers from all parts of the globe to treat all types of medical issues. For example, Mexico hospitals host American and Canadian patients for orthopedic, spinal, cardiology, cosmetic, and weight loss surgery and dental procedures on a daily basis.

Cost Is The Major Issue

Medical travel to Mexico is more popular than ever before, but traveling to Mexico for treatment is not a new idea. Residents of the southern states have long taken advantage of the inexpensive health care across the border, with many taking advantage of medical travel on a monthly basis. Currently, nearly one million Californians make regular use of the Mexican health care system, crossing the border for check-ups, prescriptions, family dentistry, and surgeries of all types. Some 1.5 million Americans have taken the further step of retiring to Mexico, taking advantage of the lower cost of living, temperate climate, and access to affordable health care. For as little as $250 a year, Americans who move to Mexico are able to receive medical care with no deductibles, low cost x-rays, eyeglasses, dental work, and free prescription medicines.

In its report, “Medical Tourism: Consumers In Search of Value,” the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions estimates about 5 million Americans traveled abroad for medical care in 2009. Researchers expect this number to grow substantially, rising to over 20 million within ten years. Medical tourism destinations vary, but for Americans Mexico is the ideal solution. In Mexico, Americans can get the same quality and standards of care for less than half the cost of the same procedure stateside – often working with surgeons who have train and practice in the US, and work closely with American medical device manufacturers. For some procedures, the difference in cost is even greater, costing only a third of the American price in Mexico. The tens of thousands of patients who come to Mexico each year know how significant those savings are, even after factoring in travel costs.

Lack Of Insurance Increases The Demand For Low-Cost Healthcare

Sadly, many Americans do not have adequate health insurance to cover the high costs of necessary medical care. With record job losses and a continuing economic recession, Americans continue to lose employer-sponsored medical insurance at an unprecedented rate, forcing them into expensive COBRA payments of up to $12,000 per year, and declaring medical bankruptcies at a rate of 2 million per year. Frustrated with the broken American health care system, more Americans than ever before are discovering that they can receive the same high quality medical care and identical prescription drugs at a much lower cost in Mexico than they can get domestically. According to research by the U.S. Medical Tourism Association, the vast majority of U.S. patients who have taken advantage of medical travel to Mexico rate their experience as equivalent and even superior to U.S. hospitals and doctors.

Savvy employers in Texas, California, and South Carolina are joining this trend, taking the step of investing in Mexican health care programs for their employees frequently at one-fifth the cost of American health coverage. These plans are significantly less expensive for employers as compared to traditional American medical insurance programs. Employees also save on deductibles and out-of-pocket costs as well as on prescription medication costs. The fact that most hospital medical travel packages include such extras as travel coordination services, lab work, and hotel stay makes medical tourism to Mexico, even more appealing.

Convenience And Travel Options

Residents of Arizona, California, and Texas have long crossed the border to major Mexico cities such as Tijuana, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Juarez for sophisticated medical care in state-of-the-art hospitals, most less than five years old. Nearly half of all American citizens live within driving distance of the major Mexico hospitals regularly serving medical travelers. For everyone else, there are frequent and inexpensive flights to the major destinations for medical tourism in Mexico, making it easy to get quality, affordable health care just a short car ride or flight away.



A Guide to Medications For Senior Citizens

Although modern medicines have many benefits for senior citizens in treatment of age-related disease, caution needs to be taken when using a combination of medicines. Medicine or “drugs” can refer to any substance you get with a prescription, any oral or topical substance used for pain relief, and dietary supplements. Any substance that has the potential to interact with other substances in the body can be considered in this category. To prevent mixing medicinal substances together that could be harmful, always let your doctor know what medications you take in addition to those prescribed. Senior citizens should keep a list of medications and doses that they take and bring it to every doctor’s appointment.

It is very important to practice safe habits with medication as many drugs can be lethal is taken in the wrong way. Senior citizens should use the following tips to ensure safe use of medication. Companions or caregivers should use these tips to help facilitate and encourage proper medication use.

Tips for when you are Prescribed Medications

When a doctor prescribes a new medication for specified symptoms, remember the following tips for how to proceed afterward:


  • Tell your doctor about all other medications you currently take,
  • Remind primary care physicians about allergies that you have or side effects that you experience from other types of medications.
  • Be sure that you understand exactly how all of your medications work and how to properly take them.


Here are some helpful questions to get this information:


  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why am I taking it?
  • How many times a day should I take it?
  • Should I take this medication before, during, or after meals?
  • What does “as needed” mean?
  • When should I stop taking the medication?
  • If I forget to take the medication, what should I do?
  • What side effects can I expect?


You can also ask your pharmacist these questions and others to get more information about your medication. By having all of your medications filled at the same pharmacy, the pharmacy may be able to predict harmful interactions if all of your medications are kept on file. When getting a prescription filled at the pharmacy, keep these tips in mind:


  • Be sure that you can read and understand all directions and writing materials that accompany prescribed medication.
  • Check that you can open the container the medicine is in.
  • Let your pharmacist know if you have difficulty swallowing pills, so that you can get a liquid variety if available – Do not crush or chew medication meant to be swallowed.
  • Ask about the best way to store the medication.
  • Be sure that the label of the medication indicates that it is the correct medication you were prescribed and displays your name.

Tips for Taking Medications


After filling a prescription for a medication that you received from your doctor, you should be sure that you follow directions for taking that medication. Here are some tips for safely taking a combination of medications:


  • Have a list of medications; include the doctor who prescribed it, the name of the medication, the reason you take it, and the directions for use.
  • Read and save all written information that comes with prescribed medication
  • Take your medication exactly in the way that it is meant to be taken.
  • Let your doctor know immediately if you experience any unexpected side effects from the medication.
  • Use charts, calendars, or weekly pillboxes to help you remember which medications to take on a daily basis.
  • Make sure companions or caregivers know when and how you are supposed to take your medication so that they can remind you.
  • Do not skip medication – if you have trouble affording medication, research programs that can aid in funding for needed medications. Medicare, a government program for senior citizens, may be a good place to start.
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and medication – alcohol can cause medications to not work correctly.
  • Take medication until it is finished or your doctor instructs you to stop.
  • Do not take medication prescribed to others.

Mysteries of the Medicine Cabinet – How and When to Properly Dispose of Old Medication

Medicine cabinets tend to bring out the packrat in most of us. Once we’ve gone to the trouble and expense of a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the pharmacy, we find it hard to part with anything remaining in the bottle when we feel better.

Is there anything wrong with keeping those three Hydrocodone tablets left over from your root canal last year? How about the cough syrup your daughter’s pediatrician prescribed this winter? Even if you don’t need it, how should you dispose of it? Dealing with it seems like so much trouble, we’d rather just close the door and forget it.

Location, Location, Location

Real estate isn’t the only business where location matters. Whether you’re dealing with prescription or over-the-counter medication, storage location is important. According to Heidi Kallivayalil, PharmD., Ambulatory and In-Hospital Practitioner, one of the worst places to store medications is the bathroom medicine cabinet. The steam and humidity from the sink and shower produce moisture that can seep in and cause drugs to degrade.

Unless special storage instructions are given, medications should be kept in a cool, dry place. Consider using the linen closet or a kitchen cabinet that’s located away from the stove and sink. You should also avoid storing medications in the refrigerator unless instructions specifically say so. Refrigerated air is too damp for most medications. If refrigeration is required, placing the bottle in an opaque plastic container on a high shelf helps to keep it out-of-sight.

A cabinet or box with a lock on it is a good idea for homes that have young children or teenagers. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 64 percent of kids between the age of 12 and 17 who have abused pain relievers say they got them from friends or relatives, typically without their knowledge. Even over-the-counter and non-narcotic medication can be dangerous when mixed or in the hands of children. Locking up medication doesn’t mean we don’t trust our kids; it’s just one more way of keeping them safe.

Also, be sure to store medication in the original container with the name and expiration date on the label. “Some medication can be affected by light,” says Kallivayalil, “that’s why prescription medication comes in amber-colored bottles.” Resist the urge to transfer pills to a smaller bottle or to combine even the same medication into one bottle. If you end up with multiple medications in the same container, they can be difficult to identify and risky to take.

Ann Greene, a pharmacist at O’Steen’s Pharmacy in Jacksonville, says she is occasionally asked to play detective by identifying medication that has been transferred from a prescription bottle to a daily or weekly pill reminder case. “Usually, it’s a family member that transfers the pills,” says Greene. “When you’re dealing with generic medications, the color is sometimes changed. Clients will be used to taking a pink pill and then the color is changed to orange. We note this on the bottle, but if a pill has been transferred to another container, it can cause confusion. I have seen cases where it leads to double dosing. The client actually takes the pill in the reminder case and also the familiar pink pill from the bottle.”

Take or Toss?

Most of us have ended up with small amounts of medication left over from various illnesses. When this happens, it’s a good idea to get rid of it. Although most expired drugs aren’t necessarily harmful, they can lose their potency. It may be tempting to hang on to them to avoid a future trip to the doctor, but there are reasons why you shouldn’t.

Unless medication is prescribed on an as needed basis (which is common for pain killers and other medications needed intermittently) it’s important to take every dose. Not doing so can lead to complications. For instance, small doses of antibiotics may not destroy an infection, and eventually could cause bacteria to develop a resistance to that particular antibiotic, making it difficult to treat in the future. Dosage amounts are different for every medication, so it’s important to follow instructions closely.

Parents occasionally give medication prescribed for one child to another child. Sharing may be a good thing most of the time, but in this case it isn’t recommended. Even if children have the same illness, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be given the same medication or the same dosage. Drug allergies are common, particularly with antibiotics. It’s best to let your physician determine what medication is appropriate for each illness.

Is This Still Good?

The shelf-life is the period of time the manufacturer has determined to be the safest and most effective for that particular medication. All medications should have an expiration date. Most prescription bottles have the date typed clearly on the label. Over-the-counter medications sometimes have the date stamped on the outside box. If you remove the tube or bottle from the box, check for a date. If you don’t see one, be sure to write the expiration date on the container with a permanent marker.

Many prescription medications expire one year from the date they were filled, but don’t just assume. According to Kallivayalil, some medications expire more quickly than others. Liquid medications often have a shorter shelf-life, some as little as 14 days.

Even supplies like adhesive bandages and hydrogen peroxide come with expiration dates. For example, Vaseline® recommends keeping their products, like petroleum jelly and moisturizers, at room temperature for up to two years.

A Closer Look

Always make sure to examine medication before taking it. Even if you’ve used the same prescription every night for the past decade, it pays to be alert. Take time to double check the name and appearance of the medication.

Be aware of anything that doesn’t look right. Capsules that are stuck together or pills that have changed color could indicate moisture has seeped into the container and they should be tossed. The same goes for any medication that is crumbled, has spots or has changed in consistency or appearance.

Leaving medication in the car can also lead to problems, especially during the summer months in Florida. “Most medication should be kept at room temperature and is stable up to about 78 degrees,” says Greene. Higher temperatures can be damaging, “If capsules are left in the glove compartment on a warm day, temperatures can climb high enough to actually melt them.” When that happens, most pharmacies are willing to exchange the damaged medication but only at the patient’s expense.

Safe Disposal

Pouring old medications down the drain or flushing them in the toilet used to be an acceptable way to dispose of them. In Florida, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health both advise against it. What’s the big deal? This method of disposal leads to a risk of contamination of Florida’s drinking water and water bodies. Most wastewater treatment systems aren’t equipped to remove medications, which means they will eventually make their way into water sources. It’s unlikely such small traces are enough to be harmful to humans, but the Florida DEP says research has shown there can be an effect on aquatic organisms like fish and frogs.

According to Eulinda Smith, spokesperson for the Florida DEP, there are a number of steps you can take to protect both humans and animals from risk when disposing of medications:

Pills and Capsules

A)Keep medication in its original container with the prescription name. This helps to identify it if it is accidentally ingested by a person or animal.
B)Mark out your name and the prescription number before tossing.
C)Add a small amount of liquid such as water or soda to the bottle to help dissolve medication.
D)Tape the lid securely with duct tape or packing tape.
E)Place the taped bottle inside a coffee can or opaque plastic container like an empty laundry detergent bottle. Tape the lid on the outer container, too.
F)Hide the container in the trash…don’t recycle it.

Liquid medications

A)Add cat litter or dirt to the remaining liquid. Anything that makes the liquid less palatable to animals or humans, such as cayenne pepper, could also be used.
B)Follow the same instructions for taping the lid and placing in an outer container.

If you come across other non-medication items while cleaning out your medicine cabinet, don’t just assume it’s okay to toss them in your regular trash either. Certain items such as thermometers also have specific disposal requirements. Mercury filled thermometers should be taken to a hazardous waste facility and digital thermometers containing a button cell battery should be recycled in the same manner as other batteries.

Once you’ve organized your home medications and supplies, an occasional check is all that’s necessary. Dispose of left-over prescription medications as soon as you’re finished with them, and periodically check the expiration date on over-the-counter medicines. Maintaining proper storage and disposal procedures will help to keep your family and the environment safe.


Preventing Medical ID Theft – Are You at Risk of Becoming a Victim?

Preventing medical ID theft has become a hot topic as Americans increasingly hear about the safety of their private medical records as more medical breeches continue to be discovered. Medical ID theft happens when a person uses someone’s identity to obtain medical services or steal money by falsifying claims for medical services. Identity thieves use a person’s Social Security number, insurance information, or other forms of identification to commit the medical ID theft.

Medical ID theft can have a devastating effect on victims, causing collections issues, credit problems, and even bankruptcy. But that’s not all. The type of medical treatment obtained by the identity thief can also prevent the victim from getting medical insurance or medical services themselves because, as far as the insurance company is concerned, the victim now has a “pre-existing” condition.

According to the FTC, medical ID theft accounts for three percent of all ID theft cases, or approximately 250,000 cases per year. Unfortunately, these medical ID theft statistics are expected to grow, especially with the shift to electronic medical records.

Preventing Medical ID Theft: The Unemployed and Uninsured

Due to their difficult circumstances, some groups are at a higher risk for becoming identity thieves. The unemployed and uninsured may use another person’s identity because of a belief that it’s the only way they can receive quality medical care. Since they’re unemployed, they don’t have access to an employer’s healthcare benefits, and they can’t afford to buy medical insurance because they don’t have a job. It’s a vicious cycle, and it can make good people do bad things.

Preventing Medical ID Theft: Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration also poses a serious threat as medical ID theft continues to rise. When an illegal immigrant steals private information such as an individual’s Social Security number, he or she can obtain identification and numerous services reserved for legal residents. If precautions aren’t taken to prevent medical ID theft, an illegal immigrant can get a passport, driver’s license, bank account, credit card, loan, mortgage, insurance, medical treatment, and many other services.

Preventing Medical ID Theft in Five Steps

Begin preventing medical ID theft by following these five easy steps:

1. Have your Social Security number removed from your insurance records. If your Social Security number is currently on your insurance card, don’t carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place and only carry a photocopy with all but the last four digits of your Social Security number blacked out.

2. Obtain copies of your credit reports, insurance claims, and medical records. Lock them in a safe or safety deposit box, or place them on a CD or flash drive.

3. Next, regularly review your credit reports, insurance claims, and medical records for suspicious entries, such as a medical treatment that was never performed on you.

4. Immediately address disputes on your explanation of benefits, bills for medical services you never received, or any other charges that could be sent to collections and damage your credit. These need to be investigated and removed from your records.

5. Don’t leave a paper trail. Destroying sensitive information you no longer need is another critical step in preventing medical ID theft, so shred claims that are more than seven years old. Also, ask if your provider’s office performs background checks employees to prevent medical ID theft rings and stolen medical information.

Preventing medical ID theft takes vigilance. Medical ID thieves are doing everything to stay one step ahead of you and the authorities, so use medical ID theft prevention strategies to protect your private information.

Linda Vincent, R.N., P.I., is an identity theft and healthcare fraud prevention expert specializing in medical consulting and investigations. She teaches corporations, professional practices, and consumers how to stop identity theft and healthcare fraud.