When you walk into your health provider’s office for the first time, do they request your social security number? If you give it, do you know where it is kept or how it is stored? In the rare circumstance, have walked into doctor’s offices that have patients enter their information right onto a tablet – no paper involved.
Your health provider does this so they get paid. If you forget your health insurance id card, write down the wrong health insurance policy number or group number – the insurance company can deny their claim. The health insurance company claims department does not do an ‘alpha’ search for the insured file if they cannot match the number submitted. Therefore, a social security number may be used on resubmission.
According to the 1974 Privacy Act, no government service or benefit can be denied for failing to provide a social security number. But, if you cannot prove you have health insurance and you refuse to provide your social security number you may have to turn around and walk out.
Now, think about your doctor’s office. Is it in the local strip mall, a second-floor office in an older building, or in a hospital? We’ve all seen the numerous file cabinets behind the counter and those files with the colorful numbers on the side. All that needs to happen is one smart criminal to realize they could make a killing on the dark web with that information.
It’s not a stretch that the insured would see that theft as the fault of the insurance company. It’s best to provide a safe, secure environment when they enter your office space. When working in an agency setting previously, we had a safe, built into the actual structure, in a closet with a dead bolt lock. This is where we kept the paper applications and personnel files. Any criminal breaking in would have to be extremely motivated to get that information. I found myself more than once explaining this to clients.
What’s to say if I did not write down my social security number for the doctor? Could they easily call my insurer, get it from them and write it down on my chart? Not likely, but possible. When working health insurance, representatives can find the insured’s social security available on their computer screen. Phone representatives are encouraged to use this as a way to verify the insured.
In companies writing both Property/Casualty, Life and Annuity policies insurance representatives can actually see all of the insured’s policies before them, including their social security number. Most times, an insured can use a social security number instead of their policy information to verify themselves to the phone representative.
That being said, insurers take the privacy of their insured’s serious. All of them have policies in place about employees giving out information over the phone, changing passwords, types of passwords that are acceptable, locking their computers screens if they walk away, and for keeping information locked up and/or off the desk when an employee leaves for the day.
Insurance company employees are also given training on privacy issues and compliance objectives. Many of insurers send out documents with the policy or do yearly mailings explaining the insured’s privacy rights and protections through their company.
If the health insurer is approved through Medicare, the government agency will send representatives to peruse the offices and see how information is handled. They do not just look at the underwriting offices either, but also any customer service and pharmaceutical branches as well. There are fines and/or termination from the program levied against the insurer who fails the inspection.
Finally, if you want to pass along identity theft protection information – choose to be a resource. The Social Security Administration provides a helpful brochure to assist consumers – have a couple printed and accessible. Keep the numbers to the three credit reporting agencies handy. Know the rules and instructions for freezing credit in your state or at least where to refer the insured to find out.
Be proactive. Make sure you are able to keep information in your agency safe and be prepared to explain the system to the insured. If the worst happens to have a system in place to notify the insured.
Even after all those precautions, the likely hood is still high that your agency or that one of your carriers could be hacked. Do you have any stories? Tell us what you did to resolve the issue.
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