There are many scenarios in which patients shouldn’t give out their personal information, including address, date of birth, and most importantly, Social Security number. However, many people don’t think the physical therapist’s office is one of those places. According to a report from The Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, entitled “The Fifth Annual Study of Medical Identity Theft,” nearly 22 percent more Americans were affected by medical identity theft in 2015 – an increase of almost a half a million victims since 2013. For future medical visits, there are a few things patients should know:
Patients don’t have to share their SSN
As a patient, you are not obligated to share your Social Security information in a medical situation. Health care providers use patients’ unique insurance numbers to claim fees after a visit, so providing this valuable information is not necessary, according to Consumer Reports. Although some practices may still ask for it on a patient form for debt collection purposes, it is within your rights to decline. Without a SSN on their medical records, patients’ chance of identity theft could be lower.
Medical files are the jackpot
Once identity thieves have access to health care history, they can acquire even more sensitive information: address, date of birth and SSN, especially if a patient lists it on medical forms. Not only is traditional identity theft a possibility at that point, but so are larger risks, including prescription and government benefit fraud, according to MainStreet.
Physical therapy practices have different forms of identification for billing purposes.
How can you withhold your SSN?
Refusing to give your SSN can be difficult, especially when a provider’s practice seems to be a safe space for that information. Feel free to leave that space blank on any and all medical forms. If someone asks, simply state that you are concerned about identity theft and inquire if there is another form of identification the office can use.
“If you have a health insurance member number, there is no justifiable reason for you to give your Social Security number too,” said Ann Patterson, MIFA’s program director.
Just as hospitals are able to generate a temporary medical number for billing if patients refuse to disclose their SSNs, physical therapy practices can use an insurer membership number as a form of identification.
Universal patient identifiers may be next
The debate over the implementation of UPIs has proponents on both sides arguing their cases, according to The Wall Street Journal. People who are pro-UPI believe the individual numbers not only keep personal information safer since it wouldn’t have to be kept near financial records, but also UPIs would encourage more information sharing between health care providers and patients. Those against the ID system argue it’s time to move records into the digital age, without the use of an identification number. Opponents argue UPIs would allow more medical records to be sold for commercial gain.
Whether advances are made in the security of personal data, including SSNs, patients of physical therapy clinics should be aware of their ability to refuse to disclose valuable information.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.