October 12th, 2007

Amex, Visa, Aetna? Watch those cards…

“Healthy paranoia” has taken on a new meaning.

Apparently, it’s no longer sufficient to be paranoid about losing the credit cards and ATM cards in your wallet. Now, you need to watch over your medical ID cards as well.

“You need to treat your medical ID card as if it were a Visa card with a million dollar credit limit,” said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

We hear all the time about the perils of identity theft that can come with lost or stolen credit cards, on-line hackers stealing your personal information, and personal data that gets inadvertently exposed on the Internet , but I had never even thought about the risks associated with someone stealing my medical insurance and identity. Who would’ve thought there was a black market for colonoscopy coverage?

As the cost of health care increases, companies, legislators, regulators and U.S. presidential candidates are all clamoring for ways to bring down costs. But until those changes take hold, people will invent and find new ways to cover the costs — and not all of those ways are legal or inconsequential. The Journal’s article makes it clear that the risks go well beyond a few fraudulent $25 co-pays.

Loss of your medical identity can lead to you receiving the wrong medical treatment … becoming uninsurable … failing pre-employment exams … receiving damaging credit reports. And, all of this doesn’t begin to address the stress and time it takes to recover your “identity” and repair the damage.

Maybe a bit more paranoia is a healthy thing…

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