Recently, my mother changed her medical insurance provider and when she had a doctor’s appointment with her new health care physician he requested she obtain her medical records. My mother complied and this is how effortless it was for her to request her medical records. All she had to do was show up in person and verify some personal information and provide a written consent to release the information to her. She happily stated it only took ten minutes and it was so convenient.
Yet, what an inconvenience it would be if the person requesting the medical records wasn’t you but a fraudster who would later use the information for identity theft. Not only that, in this day and age, your medical records can also be sent to you via email which may not always be protected. Furthermore, what if your medical records where to get into the wrong hands at the doctor’s office. These are desperate times and some people may steal your information to make a quick buck.
You may not know this, but you have medical record rights which are protected by law under HIPAA. What is this law you may be asking yourself? HIPAA is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and this is how it protects your medical records from identity theft.
1. If your medical record were released illegally or accidentally, the hospital will be fined $100 per medical record and termination of the employee that released the medical record.
2. Doctors or employees who knowingly release your medical record is a 1 year jail sentence and a $50,000 fine.
3. Individuals pretending to be your doctor or an employee at the doctor’s office to gain access to your medical records will result to 5 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
4. Doctors or employees that steal your medical records and sell it to fraudsters or use it themselves for identity theft will be 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
So the next time you are at the doctor’s office and you notice your medical record being passed around from one person to the next, just think HIPAA. Finally, remember that you do not have to provide your Social Security number to your doctor. If you have an insurance or medical number, that is usually all the office needs for billing. Next time you’re filling out a form, ask if they really require it. My experience has been that it isn’t needed.