Medical ID Theft is a Way Bigger Problem Than You Think

Medical ID Theft is a Way Bigger Problem Than You Think

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By Beth Braverman

Forget Target and Home Depot. You may be risking identity theft every time you visit the doctor’s office.

Medical ID theft, in which thieves steal your Social Security number and health insurance info in order to fraudulently obtain medical services or treatment, is skyrocketing.

More than 90 percent of healthcare organizations have had a data breach, and 40 percent had more than five data breaches in the past two years, according to a report released last month by ID Experts. Attacks by criminal organizations are up 125 percent over the past five years. Medical identities are worth far more on the black market than financial identities.

The study estimates that data breaches may have cost the industry $6 billion in the last two years. The scariest stat for consumers: Half of organizations surveyed have little or no confidence in their ability to detect all patient data loss or theft. 

Related: Now You Could Lost Your Medical Identity, Too 

Victims of medical ID theft spend thousands to restore their credit and correct inaccuracies in their medical records, and unlike banks and credit card issuers, most healthcare organizations offer no protection services for victims.

In addition to the financial toll, there are health risks to victims of medical ID theft. If someone steals your identity and receives treatment that gets added to your medical records, doctors may have incorrect information regarding your health history and allergies. 

It’s difficult to prevent medical ID theft, but monitoring your credit and closely reading your healthcare bill and explanation of benefits notices can help you catch it early.

Share Buybacks Soar to Record $1 Trillion

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By The Fiscal Times Staff

Although there may be plenty of things in the GOP tax bill to complain about, critics can’t say it didn’t work – at least as far as stock buybacks go. TrimTabs Investment Research said Monday that U.S. companies have now announced $1 trillion in share buybacks in 2018, surpassing the record of $781 billion set in 2015. "It's no coincidence," said TrimTabs' David Santschi. "A lot of the buybacks are because of the tax law. Companies have more cash to pump up the stock price."

Chart of the Day: Deficits Rising

By The Fiscal Times Staff

Budget deficits normally rise during recessions and fall when the economy is growing, but that’s not the case today. Deficits are rising sharply despite robust economic growth, increasing from $666 billion in 2017 to an estimated $970 billion in 2019, with $1 trillion annual deficits expected for years after that.

As the deficit hawks at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget point out in a blog post Thursday, “the deficit has never been this high when the economy was this strong … And never in modern U.S. history have deficits been so high outside of a war or recession (or their aftermath).” The chart above shows just how unusual the current deficit path is when measured as a percentage of GDP.

4.2 Million Uninsured People Could Get Free Obamacare Plans

FILE PHOTO: A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
Mike Blake
By Michael Rainey

About 4.2 million uninsured people could sign up for a bronze-level Obamacare health plan and pay nothing for it after tax credits are applied, the Kaiser Family Foundation said Tuesday. That means that 27 percent of the country’s 15.9 million uninsured people could get covered for free. The chart below breaks down the eligible population by state. 

Takedown of the Day: Ezra Klein on Paul Ryan's Legacy of Debt

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill in Washington
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Vox’s Ezra Klein says that retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan’s legacy can be summed up in one number: $343 billion. “That’s the increase between the deficit for fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2018— that is, the difference between the fiscal year before Ryan became speaker of the House and the fiscal year in which he retired.”

Klein writes that Ryan’s choices while in office — especially the 2017 tax cuts and the $1.3 trillion spending bill he helped pass and the expansion of the earned income tax credit he talked up but never acted on — should be what define his legacy:

“[N]ow, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. …

“Ultimately, Ryan put himself forward as a test of a simple, but important, proposition: Is fiscal responsibility something Republicans believe in or something they simply weaponize against Democrats to win back power so they can pass tax cuts and defense spending? Over the past three years, he provided a clear answer. That is his legacy, and it will haunt his successors.”

Read Klein’s full piece here.