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Thursday, March 27, 2008


The article by Arian Eigen Heald, “’Medical’ Identity Theft – New (to me) and Scary,” explains her dilemma, but what is scary to me is that it is “new” to her, an expert in her field of computer technology. Heald has served as a systems engineer, network administrator, webmistress, and a number of other positions related to the Internet and computers for years. So, if medical identity theft is new to her, we have done one lousy job of getting this fraud before the public, even professionals. And that is the answer and the reason for this series of posts on the subject. Part 3, yesterday, covered a couple of bizarre incidents in Florida where millions of dollars were stolen by crooks. We closed by covering an article voicing privacy advocates’ concerns over the latest rush to build personal health record (PHR) databases by Microsoft and Google, and my promise to illustrate how we might make this all work. See Part 1, Part 2. Picking up again on the Washington Post article quoted from yesterday, Deborah Peel, a Texas psychiatrist and founder of the non-profit, Patient Privacy Rights, “wants Americans to retain exclusive control over their medical records.” Now there is an idea I can get behind 100 percent. Although Microsoft has said they won’t, Peel thinks that the information given to the PHRs would be shared with data mining companies, and could end up being sold to insurance companies and on the open list market. And she is exactly right, based on my 35 years as a list/data broker and database consultant. In addition, PHRs are not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The excitement over public health record databases by the MSs and Googles is beginning to sound like the frenzy in the junk mail list business years ago when they first realized they had personal consumer data to sell like your telephone number and date of birth. This has escalated today into humongous databases with private information on millions of Americans, including up to 250 personal identification characteristics about each individual. The leaders are ChoicePoint, Acxiom, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the latter three also being credit bureaus. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group says that no matter how secure the PHRs think they are, it only takes one insider to steal the information and sell it to insurers or employers. It seems that, since the identity crisis was officially put in motion in early 2005 by the ChoicePoint breach, before we can solve one problem—like financial identity theft—another hot potato surfaces…like medical ID theft. Business, government and the Congress have been skirting the issue since it became apparent this crime was not only here to stay, but seems to get worse every year. In three years of blogging on The Dunning Letter, I have held to one concept that I feel sure will solve the identity theft dilemma. Give consumers control over their names and personal data, and compensate them when it is sold as an extra incentive to take over this responsibility. Deborah Peel is a force behind this philosophy in relation to medical data, and it is time the general public got behind the both of us.

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