Keep an eye on your medical ID

Michelle Andrews of U.S. News and World Report writes:

If identity thieves were to disregard your financial accounts and instead target your medical information, your first thought might well be, “Take my medical identity. Please.”

What nut would want your high cholesterol, trick knee and family history of Alzheimer’s?

The answer is simple: One without health insurance who needs surgery or prescription drugs, or someone who sees a medical ID as the open sesame that will allow him or her to collect millions in false medical claims.


Brandon Reagin didn’t realize someone had snatched his medical identity until his mother called to tell him he was the lead suspect in a car theft in South Carolina in 2005.

The 22-year-old Marine had lost his wallet more than a year earlier while celebrating with friends after completing boot camp at Parris Island, near Beaufort, S.C. After his training, he was posted to California. But in South Carolina, Reagin lived on, as an impostor used his military ID and driver’s license to not only test-drive new cars and then steal them but also to visit hospitals on several occasions to treat kidney stones and an injured hand, running up nearly $20,000 in medical charges.

Reagin found out about the unpaid hospital bills when he asked for a credit report following the car theft.

Reagin got nowhere with local police, but with the help of a state senator, he finally connected with the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina. Staff there notified the Secret Service, and Reagin’s doppelganger, a 30-something guy named Arthur Watts from a tiny Midlands town called Blythewood, was eventually arrested. Watts pleaded guilty to identity theft and is awaiting sentencing.

But there’s another potential problem: The hospitals Watts used may have medical records in Reagin’s name for treatment he never received. And if those medical records someday become electronically linked to one big nationwide health information network, as envisioned by the Bush administration, some privacy experts worry it may be impossible to find and correct the errors once they percolate through the vast interconnected system.

Read full story – Daily Herald


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