Medical Identity Theft: Has Your Medicare Information Been Stolen?
It used to be we only had to worry about identity theft. If you’ve never been through it, pray you never do. It’s a nightmare to clear your name, get your credit score corrected and get your money back. As the population grows older, it has evolved to Medical Identity Theft. So, are you sure your Medicare information is secure?
As America gets older and resources become stretched, medical care becomes gold. For those who’ve earned Medicare benefits, it’s easier to manage and be cost effective. But what about someone who has not earned Medicare? Whether it be someone who did not work enough quarters (you need to have worked 40 quarters/10 years to qualify), or someone illegally in the United States, who needs care and can’t afford it, stealing someone’s Medicare ID number, or social security number and requesting a replacement Medicare card – they can syphon off your benefits.
Three Circumstances that Can Arise
If this were to ever happen to you, these three things will be the result.
- Financial loss
- Medical circumstances due to someone else’s information being in your record.
- Loss of money from Medicare funding, making it harder to pay for your care.
Let’s look at each one separately.
Unless you are on Medicaid or Extra Help (read more about Extra Help here), you have deductibles, coinsurances and copays. If someone were using your Part D (prescription) benefits, you can find yourself in the donut hole quickly, leaving you having to pay up to $2,420 (for 2021) out-of-pocket for your prescriptions before your Part-D plan pays anything else.
You want to buy life or final expense insurance. You fill out the application and it states they will pull your medical information from the Medical Information Bureau (MIB, not to be confused with the movie Men In Black). They see information in your record belonging to whomever is using your medical identity and either deny you the policy or charge a much higher premium.
Imagine if someone else’s medical information is believed to be yours. You are allergic to a certain medication; they’re not. You’re in the hospital and can’t respond (whether under anesthesia or in a coma). A doctor decides this medication is warranted for your condition and records show you’ve taken it before (but you didn’t). You are given this medication and your allergy kicks in. The repercussion can vary depending on how sensitive or allergic you are.
Loss of Medicare Funds
Many believe that America has unlimited money. The way they’ve been spending lately, it’s easy to believe that. But, unfortunately, it’s not true. Often, the government is taking money from one program to subsidize another, printing money which affects the value of a dollar and can cause inflation, or they have to raise taxes.
Medicare is funded by our tax dollars and if those dollars are wasted on fraudulent claims, it syphons money away for legitimate ones. This can result in benefits being restricted or watered down in order to stretch what dollars are available. Often that can happen in the programs created to help people with lower income and the indigent.
As you can see, the affects are real and the circumstances can be catastrophic. So, what can you do?
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1. Protect Your Personal Information
Guard your Medicare and Social Security cards and numbers like you would guard your bank account number and debit card.
2. Check Your Medical Bills
Whenever you get a medical bill or a summary form your insurance company, read it. Many people just ignore them and file them away unread. If you see something that is not familiar, call your provider. You may have forgotten something, or a mistake may have been made. If they say they are unaware of it and it did not come from them, report it to Medicare. You can do so by:
- Calling 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477)
- Go to medicare.gov/fraud
3. Be Vigilant for Scams
Be suspicious of FREE anything, where they require your Medicare or Social Security number to get it. If it were FREE, why do they need this information? If they say, “Well, that’s how it gets paid for, by the government.” Tell them you need to call Social Security first to verify if this is true.
If in person, like in a parking lot or shopping center, ask if you can take a photo of them before doing anything. If they say no, THAT’S CALLED A CLUE! If it’s on the phone, ask them to please give you their direct phone number, so you can call them back. If they give you excuses, hang up. If they give you a number, hang up can call back. Many scammers use ghost phone numbers that do not exist to give the impression they are somewhere else.
A professional Medicare insurance agent will not walk up to you in a parking lot. If they are offering Medicare Advantage, they cannot legally contact you unless you gave them permission (this does not apply to MediGap Supplements). You can do this by answering an ad, returning a postcard received in the mail, walking up to their booth or kiosk in the shopping center or mall, or calling them if they were referred by a friend or family.
Vet Your Caller or Visitor
Unfortunately, sometimes you will get a legitimate call form a Medicare insurance agent, and due to these shenanigans, people become wary and refuse to talk. Don’t be afraid to ask qualifying questions to verify the call is legitimate.
- What is your insurance ID number and full name with phone number?
- How did you get my information to contact me?
- Can you email or message me a copy of what you say gave you permission to contact me, for me to see?
If they refuse to provide this information, hang up.
Medicare benefits are one of the most important and valuable benefits you’ve earned. When you consider the cost of healthcare and that with age, typically, comes more healthcare needs, you can do the math. And it’s not just the money, but also the quality of life it helps to provide.
So, make sure you protect your information. If you don’t have an insurance agent, get one. Get one you can trust; build a relationship and only deal with him or her on these matters. A reputable agent will answer your questions and be willing to provide the extra customer care necessary to ensure you are protected.
If you live in Florida or South Carolina, and you don’t have an agent, feel free to contact us at YourCareRep.com. We would love the opportunity to be of service, help you get all the benefits on the table you qualify for, and save you the maximum amount of money possible. Many of our clients save up to $5,000 a year on prescriptions, and some even get a portion or all of their Part-B premium credit refunded back into their social security checks. You can email us at in**@yo*********.com or call us at (727) 459-1887. We’d love to speak with you!