Health care fraud costs an estimated $80 billion a year in the US, including billing for unnecessary or unperformed services or equipment, Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud is also known as Medical identity theft and happens when someone steals your personal information (name, Social Security number, or Medicare number) to obtain medical care, buy drugs, or submit fake billings to Medicare in your name. Aside from damaging your credit rating and costing both you and the government money, medical identity theft can also be life threatening if wrong information ends up in your medical records. What if you are given the wrong medication? Or treated for the wrong illness? Or prevented from receiving help due to billing issues?
According to the 2013 Survey on Medical Identity Theft, medical identity theft affected 1.84 million US residents in 2012 and was most commonly done by someone who knows the victim very well; often, the victim had shared credentials with family and friends without understanding the consequences (30%). In other cases, credentials were taken without permission (28%). Providing personal information to a fake email or spoofed website was next common (8%), followed by a healthcare breach (7%) or insider theft (5%). 36% of victims incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to medical identity theft, on average incurring $18,660 in costs. Total out-of-pocket expenses for consumers related to medical identity theft was over $12 million in the US for 2012, a 19% increase over costs from the previous year.
If you find a problem with your medical bill, call your health care provider and your health plan provider immediately. If you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, notify the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General and Medicare. You can also report a misuse of your information to the FTC.