Extent, cost of health ID theft exposed in Wall Street Journal

Confirmation that your Editors (including Founder Steve) are no longer Voices Crying In The Wilderness on health data insecurity came this weekend on the front page (print) of The Wall Street Journal. It concentrated less on the profit of stolen PHI–$50 per record on average versus $7 for a credit card, according to Ponemon Institute–than on the horror of the 2.3 million individuals suddenly finding out that hospitalizations, procedures and prescriptions in their name were being used by others, leaving them with the bill and unable to clear both their financials and their health records.

EHRs are treasure troves of health and financial information. Unlike credit card theft, there’s no warning–and no limits. Providers and insurance companies put the onus on the person with the stolen data. There is no healthcare equivalent of the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which since 1974 and 1970 respectively have limited the individual impact of fraudulent credit card charges.

Consumer security programs like LifeLock are not particularly effective in proactive notification. In other words, you’re stuck. You may run through your benefits and then be responsible for the bills. Second, you may never get the bad information and diagnoses out of the supposedly accessible health record because of privacy laws, especially if you are a caregiver.

Victims sometimes only find out when they get a bill or a call from a debt collector. They can wind up with the thief’s health data folded into their own medical charts. A patient’s record may show she has diabetes when she doesn’t, say, or list a blood type that isn’t hers—errors that can lead to dangerous diagnoses or treatments.

Adding insult to injury, a victim often can’t fully examine his own records because the thief’s health data, now folded into his, are protected by medical-privacy laws. And hospitals sometimes continue to hound victims for payments they didn’t incur.

According to Ponemon, “65% of victims reported they spent an average of $13,500 to restore credit, pay health-care providers for fraudulent claims and correct inaccuracies in their health records.”

Very rarely does this Editor look for a Federal remedy to a problem, (more…)

The sheer screaming attractiveness of medical ID theft

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/screenshot-med-25.jpg” thumb_width=”170″ /]Harry Lime Lives!  It’s the 1949 Vienna of ‘The Third Man’ when it comes to the black market of medical identity theft. Data breaches are easier than heisting penicillin off an Army Medical Corps truck and far less noticeable–there’s always a lag time in discovery as more than one health system (Community Health System) found. And protected health information (PHI) has value down the line. According to a report cited by FierceHealthIT:

  • Simple data comes cheap: names, birth dates and health insurance contract with group numbers fetch a pedestrian $20.
  • Add Social Security (SSI) numbers, banking and credit card information, and these ‘kits’ fetch $1,500. These can be used for financial fraud of multiple types or alternate identities.
  • Add medical data, and direct marketing data brokers and pharmacy benefit companies are willing to pay. They use it for legitimate (but annoying) purposes, such as targeting those with specific diseases.
  • Add physical identification, and the value goes through the roof for fake passports, driver’s licenses and visas.

The ways PHI can be accessed are many: EHRs, paper records, stolen laptops, CDs, accounting systems, provider, insurer and supplier systems, and simple ‘friendly fraud’ (more…)

Roundup: data breaches ’round the world

Following on our review of recent articles on why medical identity theft is so attractive, here’s our review of data breaches in the news, including a new (to this Editor) report from Europe.

  • It’s not Europe, blame the UK! That is one of the surprising findings of a meta-review of all types of data breaches released earlier this month by the Central European University’s Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS). While not specific to healthcare, it is the first study this Editor has seen on EU data breaches and is useful for general trends. 229 verified incidents were analyzed by the CMDS across  28 EU member countries plus Switzerland and Norway, 2005-3rd Quarter 2014, and includes unusual healthcare breaches such as Danish HIV patients’ personal information included in a PowerPoint presentation later published online. Key findings:
    1. 57 percent of breaches were due to insider theft, mismanagement or error; 41 percent were hacker-instigated
    2. It’s common: “for every 100 people in the study countries, 43 personal records have been compromised”
    3. In terms of impact, the UK by far, then Greece, Norway, Germany and Netherlands were the top five countries for incidents and numbers of records breached (report page 9) (more…)

Data insecurity in Obamacare insurance exchanges (US)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/keep-calm-and-enter-at-own-risk-3.png” thumb_width=”175″ /]The warning that should appear as the main page of 50 state health exchanges.

Subsumed under the ‘government shutdown’ (affecting in reality a distinct minority of Federal government employees) is the significant concern that the state-based online exchanges now selling individual insurance, effective 1 Jan 2014, much trumpeted under the Affordable Care Act and baked into it two years ago, already present significant vulnerabilities in securing the vital data of millions: Social Security number, date of birth, addresses, tax and earnings information. These state-based exchanges are also dependent on information from a Federal data ‘Hub’ which “acts as a conduit for exchanges to access the data from where they are originally stored.” (HHS Office of Inspector General report August 2013, page 2) If improperly secured, this opens up other Federal agencies to further upstream identity theft mayhem.

Already information is in the hands of thousands of call center staff and so-called ‘navigators’ who may or may not have gone through security verifications. Insurance customer information has already leaked outside of exchanges (see below). (more…)