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Black Market Benefits

photo by Scott Maira

With the ever-increasing difficulty of securing health coverage it shouldn’t be surprising that criminal agents are taking advantage of people’s desperation. Black market benefits – obtaining health coverage via medical identity theft – are a growing phenomenon. Opportunists can take the information from your health insurance card and use it to obtain medical treatment or prescription drugs without the real benefit holders’ knowledge.

According to a firm that researches privacy issues, at least half a million Americans so far have been affected by this scheme. The health insurer Aetna Inc. says it has faced a 100% increase in the past year in the amount of cases it is investigating. Just one such case involves $3.5 million in claims over a two-week period for treatments supposedly provided to 400 of its members.

Wrongful claims can affect not just the rightful beneficiary’s credit status but also their apparent health status. This in turn can make it hard for them to get employed, to get the right treatment for their real health problems, or to get coverage in the future. The article below details how to determine if you’re a victim of medical ID theft (which can be hard to detect) and how to deal with the consequences.

Meanwhile, California has just passed the nation’s first law requiring patients be notified when the security of their medical or insurance information has been compromised.

by Victoria E. Knight
The Wall St. Journal
October 11, 2007

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