Docs fight FTC rules on identity theft

    When the Federal Trade Commission established new rules to crack down on identity theft, doctors balked and said they should be exempt from the rules.

    The FTC wants banks and credit card companies to look for red flags that indicate a customer is using another person’s credit history.

    “They were asking businesses to get photo ID of their customers to confirm that they are in fact who they claim to be,” said Darlene Kauffman of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

    She says the “red flag rules” make sense for furniture retailers or other companies that offer a line of credit. But doctors argue that the rules would have forced them to police their patients. “There are some pockets in rural areas that felt very uncomfortable about even showing their driver’s license to the practice. I don’t have an explanation, I just think it’s cultural,” Kauffman said. In December, the American Medical Association convinced Congress to say that the rules do not apply to doctors. Ed Sobel, who leads a primary care practice in Wilmington, said he and other doctors weren’t sure what Congress would decide. So about a year ago, Sobel started asking his patients for identification. “They would come in and we would say, ‘We need to have a picture ID.’  And they are looking at us like: ‘You’re kidding, I’ve been coming here 30, 40, 50 years. Everybody in the office knows who I am.’ For a lot of our patients — our staff — without even asking, they know by the voice who they are talking to,” Sobel said. Although doctors opposed the FTC rules, the Pennsylvania Medical Society does suggest ways physicians can help prevent medical identity fraud. Some practices repeatedly ask patients for their date of birth to keep family members with the same name from using the same health insurance card. Other offices snap a digital photo at check in, and load the image into a patient’s electronic medical record. Then the reception staff double-checks the picture at each appointment. It is an expensive idea, but Kauffman also wants insurance companies to add pictures to their health insurance cards.

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