During the ten years up to 2022, the US government and private individuals received $27.89 billion in settlements and judgments involving healthcare fraud. This single piece of statistic is testimony to the epic scale of scams you stand to encounter when obtaining medical treatments and related services.
So, taking a moment to understand the risks and learning how you could protect yourself is both timely and prudent if you want to avoid deceptive schemes in healthcare.
Health Fraud: What Are the Risks?
The frequently reported health scams include:
This is a prevalent practice that has helped fraudsters siphon millions of dollars from unsuspecting patients.
Unscrupulous healthcare service providers could devise different tactics to bill you fraudulently.
For instance, they could prescribe unnecessary treatments and tests or bill you twice for the same service. They could also charge you for more expensive treatments or services you haven’t received at all.
Unbundling is also common, where healthcare providers break down a single treatment into several bills. This allows them to add extra charges without raising suspicion.
By falling victim to a billing scam, you could lose your insurance benefits as they get used up by fraudulent claims. In the end, you may have to bear your own medical expenses, not to mention risk facing higher premiums when it is time to renew your policy.
Medical Identity Theft
When a fraudster gets hold of your personal data, they can easily assume your identity to commit healthcare-related swindles.
- Scammers can access medical treatments under your name and bill them to your healthcare insurer. This will not only deplete your insurance benefits but can also alter your medical information with inaccurate records.
- Using your prescriptions, identity thieves could purchase drugs for personal use or to sell them to others.
- With your medical details, they could create fake prescriptions to obtain medication illegally.
In addition, deceptive actors can sell your personal and medical data, such as insurance details and prescriptions, on the dark web, allowing other criminals to use them for scams.
All these practices could endanger your safety by exposing you to various frauds.
If suspicious activities, such as excessive drug purchases, get flagged by your insurer, you may also face legal repercussions.
Kickbacks and Commissions
Healthcare practitioners can receive payments and gifts from pharmaceutical businesses and medical service providers for prescribing their drugs and treatments.
This could result in patients paying for unnecessary treatments or obtaining expensive medication when cheaper alternatives are available.
Sometimes, healthcare workers could intentionally refrain from providing drugs prescribed for you or get you to pay for ones already covered.
With such practices, they could steal medication to sell it elsewhere.
Fraudulent Product Promotions
Deceptive telemarketing campaigns and social media ads that promote treatments, supplements, and drugs are fairly common.
They often use falsified information and exaggerated claims to trick people into purchasing inferior-quality products. Fake or uncertified drugs may even put your life at risk.
Guarding Against Health Scams
Protecting yourself from healthcare swindles is good for your wallet, safety, and health.
Here is what you can do to avoid falling prey.
Limit Access to Personal Data
Criminals can extract your identifiable information from your digital data footprint or even by using phishing, malware, hacking, and similar techniques. They can also access data through third-party breaches, for example, with the help of a hacking attack or internal theft.
To prevent or minimize such incidents,
- Protect your digital documents, online accounts, and devices using passwords. Applying strong credentials and keeping them secure with a password manager is also essential.
- Use multi-factor authentication for extra digital data security.
- Never share personal details without verifying who you are dealing with. For instance, run a reverse phone search on Nuwber to confirm unknown callers requesting identifiable data.
- Ignore links and files shared via unsolicited messages.
- Be careful not to give away excessive personal information when dealing with third-party organizations, including insurance companies and healthcare providers. Inquire why they need specific personal details and how they keep patient/customer data secure.
- Screen your digital footprint and remove any information that could compromise your safety. In addition, be mindful about what you add to it.
Rely on Your Own Research
Fraudulent medical practitioners, telemarketers, and other bad actors could easily mislead you with inaccurate or fabricated claims, advice, and statements. The only way to avoid getting duped in such instances is by researching and verifying facts.
- Ask sufficient questions from your healthcare practitioner to understand your health condition and why you require specific treatments and medication. Take notes if necessary, and search online to learn more.
- When unsure, get a second opinion from another medical practitioner.
- Remain alert to fake product promotions touting guaranteed or instant cures. Check which scientific studies they quote to confirm their medical claims and review certifications they have received.
- Find out more about businesses you are unfamiliar with before purchasing health products and services from them. Don’t forget to check reviews and seek references from people you know.
Keep Track of Your Healthcare Information
This is important for identifying signs of suspicious activities.
- Review your medical records from time to time and ensure there are no unusual entries.
- Check your insurer’s explanation of benefits statements against the claims you have submitted.
- Look for any healthcare-related debt you don’t identify on your credit report.
Health fraud is diverse and can range from billing scams and medical identity theft to kickbacks, medication theft, and fake health product campaigns.
The consequences of falling victim to such swindles can include loss of medical insurance benefits, high policy premiums, unnecessary financial costs, and even legal action. At times, these deceptive acts could put your health at risk, too.
Therefore, taking necessary steps toward protecting yourself from medical scams is important. Remember to keep your personal information secure, verify health-related claims and advice with your own research, and keep track of your healthcare data to minimize the risk of deceptive advances.