AnnualMedicalReport.com Verifies Congressional Testimony of Medical Information Bureau Executive

The article “How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die” by Joel S. Winston appeared on Credit.comYahoo Finance, and MSN.com Money. The article mentioned the long history of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB Group Inc.), including MIB’s collection of codes for “sexual deviation” and “social maladjustment” during the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The factual record shows that, under questioning by a Senate Banking Committee in 1973, the Medical Information Bureau’s former executive director and general counsel, Joseph C. Wilberding, testified that,”the individual consumer files collected and exchanged by Medical Information Bureau, has included information on “sexual deviation”, drug addiction, alcoholism and such hazardous hobbies as auto racing and flying.”

In a lengthy newspaper interview in 1975, Mr. Wilberding, further explained that Medical Information Bureau’s “sexual deviation” code was “aimed primarily at homosexuals.” Whereas the “social maladjustment” code Wilberding said, “included individuals ‘who are predatory and follow more or less criminal pursuits, such as racketeers, dishonest gamblers, prostitutes, and dope peddlers.’” Congressional testimony by Mr. Wilberding also revealed that the Medical Information Bureau did not independently verify whether the personal information it collected and sold was accurate or truthful.

Although Mr. Wilberding’s testimony is preserved in the public record by Congressional documents and newspaper archives, the Medical Information Bureau’s current executive vice president and general counsel, Jonathan W. Sager, objected to the discussion of Mr. Wilberding’s testimony in “How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die”. Mr. Sager commented, “Mr. Winston’s research yielded some interesting, if unverifiable, history about Joe Wilberding’s 1973 testimony before Sen. Proxmire’s committee that I cannot specifically address or refute.” Nevertheless,

Mr. Sager would not comment directly on Wilberding’s testimony. However, he said: “Let me assure you that MIB does not have codes for ‘homosexuality, effeminate behaviors, bachelorhood, HIV acquisition, and a woman’s questionable ‘moral character’ for giving birth out of wedlock.'””

But, a close review of the record shows that, in “How Insurance Companies Predict When You’ll Die”, Mr. Winston wrote, “the “other” category in MIB files has included information on “sexual deviation” [emphasis added]. Notably, Mr. Sager does not refute that, in the past, MIB has collected personal information about individuals, including sexual deviation, homosexuality, effeminate behaviors, bachelorhood, HIV acquisition, and a woman’s questionable “moral character” for giving birth out of wedlock. (For more details on the Medical Information Bureau’s past collection of personal information, see the article, “Vintage Credit Report from 1970’s Describe Effeminate Men, Homosexuals, and Single Mothers Living Alone”.) (more…)

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The Medical Information Bureau’s History of Sexual Curiosity

The Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB Inc.) has been the subject of ongoing controversy since the 1970′s, when its existence first became generally known. At the root of the controversy is the organization’s penchant for secrecy. For many years, insurance agencies consulted MIB without telling applicants about the files. MIB even had an unlisted phone number. Interestingly, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. also has an extensive history of sexual curiosity about Americans.

Although the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB, Inc.) owns the largest database of reported medical information in North America, MIB collects more than just medical information. Personal habits, occupations, and lifestyle choices are very important to the insurance company members of the Medical Information Bureau.

For example, MIB has codes that indicate a dangerous lifestyle, including, “adverse driving records, hazardous sports, aviation activity, or homosexual lifestyle”. These codes map to similar question on most life insurance forms or physician questionnaires.

In fact, what the Medical Information Bureau keeps in its computers is information about people. Specifically, every time you report a significant medical condition on an insurance application—anything from heart problems to skin cancer—the insurance company can report that condition to the MIB. The next time you apply for insurance, your “new” insurance company will pull your MIB file and find out what you previously reported.

But, MIB’s files don’t contain your exact medical records, test results, or X-rays. Instead, each person’s file contains one or more codes that stand for a particular medical condition that has been reported for that person. Within the MIB database, medical conditions are indicated through the use of more than 200 codes; commonly reported conditions include height and weight, blood pressure, EKG readings, and lab tests. There are codes that signify diabetes, heart problems, and gender. Some codes are very detailed. For example, researchers found that MIB had five separate codes for HIV / AIDS acquisition (presumptively to identify whether the source of infection was medical or sexual).

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MIB Executive Testifies that Reporting Agency Collects Personal Data on Sexual Deviation

The landmark consumer protection law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was passed in 1970. The FCRA, which went into effect in 1971, originally exempted disclosure of medical information by data-gathering organizations such as the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), although it did direct disclosure to consumers of information that would be detrimental to a person’s credit rating. In 1973, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, Subcommittee for Consumer Credit, held hearings on the use of medical information for insurance underwriting.

During these hearings, the Senate subcommittee chairman, Senator William Proxmire, questioned Joseph C. Wilberding, executive director and general counsel of the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). Mr. Wilberding testified that the individual consumer files collected and exchanged by MIB, “included data on sexual deviation, drug addiction, alcoholism and such hazardous hobbies as auto racing and flying.” (Source, “Insurance Data Called Faulty“, The New York Times, October 4, 1973.)

That consumers are largely unaware of the MIB’s existence cannot be blamed on individual apathy or misinformation. The Medical Information Bureau (MIB) was purposefully hidden by its employees. Mr. Wilberding also testified that “applicants for health insurance policies were “not told” that medical information would be made available to the 700 companies that support the data bank, and insisted that applicants “shouldn’t be told.” (more…)

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Health Insurance Data Privacy in the Federal Data Services Hub

The federal Data Services Hub is the essential software component of Healthcare.gov, the health insurance portal for Obamacare, without which advance premium tax credits, cost-sharing reductions, and direct payments to insurers would not be possible. To the credit of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Healthcare.gov marketplace, which was built by 55 contractors and now serviced by dozens more, is, “one of the most complex pieces of software ever created for the federal government. It communicates in real time with at least 112 different computer systems across the country.”

In simplest terms, the federal Data Services Hub is a “routing tool that helps Marketplaces provide accurate and timely eligibility determinations. The Data Services Hub will verify data against information contained in already existing, secure and trusted Federal and state databases.” Because the Data Services Hub provides a single connection to federal, state, and private data sources in order to verify applicant information for income, citizenship, immigration status, and employer coverage, the Data Services Hub will necessarily be handling a large volume of very sensitive personal information. In the opinion of CMS, “the Hub and its associated systems have been built with state-of-the art business processes based on federal and industry standards.”

By rough estimate, CMS is spending approximately $500 million dollars over eight years to create and manage the federal Data Services Hub technology product. For the necessary cloud computing power to host the federal Data Services Hub data, CMS paid $55.4 million to Terremark Federal Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ). CMS has also contracted with the credit reporting bureau Equifax, Inc. to obtain personal information about applicant’s income and employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Specifically, Equifax Workforce Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of the credit bureau Equifax, Inc., has a 5 year, $329.4 million contract to provide, “information [about individual health insurance applicants] that is more current than what is available on federal income tax returns.” Furthermore, contract documents show that Equifax must provide income information “in real time,” usually within a second of receiving a query from the federal government. (more…)

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Vintage Credit Reports from 1970’s Describe Effeminate Men, Homosexuals, and Single Mothers Living Alone

Prior to the passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting companies attempted to document all manner of personal and private information. Often, these credit reports included the personal judgments of investigators laced with prejudice. For example,

“In 1972, a man in San Francisco discovered that a consumer report about him for a life insurance policy included the comment that he used ‘his hands in an effeminate manner, also talks in an effeminate manner.'”

At that time, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB, Inc.) was under no legal compulsion to reveal itself or its activities to its customers. Researcher Robert Ellis Smith investigated these routine invasions of privacy by the insurance credit reporting agencies and uncovered “countless reports [that] included the fact that a prospected insured was living ‘without benefit of wedlock.'” Moreover, Smith reported that “unverified rumors of homosexuality” were common.
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How to Find Your State Health Insurance Marketplace

Every state has its own Health Insurance Marketplace, selling plans licensed for sale in that state. All consumers can purchase health insurance via an online health insurance marketplace and by telephone. Contact the health insurance marketplace in your state to start shopping for health insurance.

Alabama Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Alaska Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Arizona Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Arkansas Health Connector  1-855-283-3483

California: Covered California 1-888-975-1142

Colorado: Connect for Health Colorado 1-855-752-6749

Connecticut: Access Health CT  1-855-805-4325

Delaware: Choose Health Delaware  1-800-318-2596

Florida Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Georgia Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Hawaii Health Connector  1-877-628-5076

Idaho: Your Health Idaho 1-855-944-3246

Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Iowa Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Kentucky: Kynect. Kentucky’s Healthcare Connection 1-855-459-6328

Louisiana Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Maine Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Maryland Health Connection 1-855-642-8572

Massachusetts Health Connector 1-877-623-6765

Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Minnessota: MNsure 1-855-366-7873

Mississippi Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Missouri Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Montana Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Nebraska Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Nevada Health Link 1-855-768-5465

New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

New Jersey Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange 1-800-204-4700

New York: NY State of Health 1-855-355-5777

North Carolina Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

North Dakota Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Ohio Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Oklahoma Health Insurance Marketplace 1-855-532-5465

Cover Oregon 1-855-268-3767

Pennsylvania Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Rhode Island: HealthSource RI 1-855-609-3303 1-800-318-2596

South Carolina Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

South Dakota Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Tennessee Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Texas Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Utah Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Vermont Health Connect 1-855-899-9600

Virginia Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Washington State Healthplanfinder 1-855-923-4633

Washington, D.C.: Health Link  1-855-532-5465

West Virginia Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Wisconsin Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

Wyoming Health Insurance Marketplace 1-800-318-2596

If you live in a state that has turned over the job of running its marketplace to the federal government, when you click on the link you’ll start at Healthcare.gov, where you’ll be shown how to navigate to your state’s marketplace.

Source – “Consumer Reports – Find Your Health Insurance Marketplace.” For more information about the health insurance marketplace in your state, visit our State Health Insurance Marketplace resource page.

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Request Your Equifax Workforce Solutions Report – The Work Number – TALX Corporation

Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.) is a corporation that collects and sells personal information on 190 million Americans regarding employment history, week-by-week payroll, employee benefits, and employer-sponsored insurance coverage.

All consumers are entitled to request a copy of their Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.) without charge once every 12 months. A Work Number “Employment Data Report” includes a copy of the information potentially given to those requesting employment information on you from The Work Number. In addition, The Work Number Employment Data Report contains a list of each time a verifier has attempted to access some or all of your data using The Work Number. Individuals must contact The Work Number directly online at www.TheWorkNumber.com; by phone at 1-866-604-6570; by fax at 1-877-879-8182; or by mail at “TALX Corporation, ATTN: EDR, 1845 Borman Ct. Suite 337, St. Louis, MO 63146.”

Few consumers have ever heard of Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.). Even world-renowed privacy experts are unaware. “Are you joking? Oh my god, I’m shocked,” said privacy expert consultant Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute, upon learning of the existence of The Work Number credit reporting database.

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Who is Buying Your Medical Records from the Hospital?

Add another vulnerability in an increasingly long list of threats to patient privacy – states are selling ‘anonymized’ hospital databases containing patient medical records that can be personally identified using publicly available information.

Although seemingly ‘anonymized’, researchers at the Harvard University Data Privacy Lab have demonstrated that individual patients can be identified using only publicly available information and their medical background.

In its special report, States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Privacy in Jeopardy, Bloomberg News made records request to each of the 20 most-populous states for lists of who’s buying their hospital discharge data. Only 12 states responded and supplied the data; the states are Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.
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States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Patient Privacy in Jeopardy

Hospitals in the U.S. pledge to keep a patient’s health background confidential. Federal law even establishes stringent standards for the use and dissemination of personal health information. Yet states like Arizona, Tennessee, New Jersey, New York, and Washington are endangering patient privacy by selling medical records that can be used to link a person’s identity to medical conditions via public information.

Bloomberg News, in conjunction with Latanya Sweeney, Director of Harvard’s Data Privacy Law, re-identified 35 people out of 81 sample cases searched in a database of hospital discharge records that Washington State sold to the public for $50. In another patient database sample, Latanya Sweeney was able to identify the Governor of Massachusetts using ‘anonymized’ data her lab purchased from the state. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, certain states are exposing the personal medical information of millions of patients.

The data is supposed to remain anonymous. However, a specific “state exemption” from federal regulations allows states to sell large volumes of ‘hospital discharge data’ to data brokers and nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. Although seemingly ‘anonymized’, researchers at the Harvard University Data Privacy Lab have demonstrated that individual patients can be identified using only publicly available information and their medical background.

Twelve of the most populous states generated $1.91 million from 1,698 requests for data from 2011, the latest year for which figures are available, according to state records reviewed by Bloomberg News. Washington sold its database 95 times in 2011 and generated just $15,950.
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Companies Using Tobacco Smoking Penalty and Hiring Ban Against Workers

To fight rising health care costs, companies across America are penalizing workers for a range of health conditions, including high blood pressure and obesity. Cigarette smokers and tobacco users have also been added to the list of targeted employees. In all, about 40% of American employers reward or penalize employees based on tobacco use (smoke and smokeless).

tobacco-nicotine-cigarettesIn addition, a growing number of companies are refusing to hire smokers. These employers argue that coaxing tobacco users to quit with free cessation programs or cash incentives hasn’t worked. Currently, these hiring bans against smokers are legal in 21 states. More states are considering enacting hiring bans against smokers – about 4% adopting the policy and an additional 2% planning to do so next year, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health and consulting firm Towers Watson.

Most firms simply ask job candidates if they smoke, but a few require candidates to take urine tests to be screened for nicotine. As part of the background check, some companies are now purchasing personal information from database marketing and broker companies. In addition, nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies, including the Medical Information Bureau Inc., collect information on tobacco usage from its member insurance companies.

“It’s unethical,” says Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of medical ethics and health policy at UPenn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Employers’ main motivation isn’t employee health, he says, but “to get the smoker off their health bill and pass on the costs to someone else.” But proponents say employers have given other methods a fair shake and need a tougher approach. David Asch, who co-wrote the academic paper in support of the ban, says that with hiring bans, smokers face a social consequence that is potentially more painful than nicotine withdrawal.

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US News & World Report – How Risky Hobbies Can Raise Your Insurance Rates

US News and World Report LogoU.S. News and World Report discusses how risky hobbies and dangerous “lifestyle” activities that can increase life insurance rates. According to U.S. News, adventurous and thrill-seeking pastimes can cost you more than you think. Some common types of activities that life insurance companies for search for include: motorcycle riding, scuba diving, BASE jumping, hang-gliding, rock climbing, hunting, recreational boating, and international travel to “risky” locations.

Insurance companies are well aware of the groups you’re involved in, the commentary you write on Facebook, the stuff you post on Instagram. If you have a low-value insurance policy, it won’t come up, but if it’s a serious policy that could bring in big numbers, they’ll want more background on you.

Nevertheless, you must always be honest in your application. You might easily think it’s not worth the trouble to tell an insurance company about your love for mountain climbing, and it’s true that it’s probably not smart to volunteer the information. But if you’re asked and lie to an agent or on your application, you’re taking just as much of a risk as the pastime you’re engaged in.

To read the full article, see the U.S. News and World Report – Money Personal Finance website to learn how “How Risky Hobbies Can Raise Your Insurance Rates”.

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Employer Health Care Penalty – When Your Boss Makes You Pay for Being Fat

As they fight rising health-care costs and poor results from voluntary wellness programs, companies across America are penalizing workers for a range of health conditions, including high blood pressure and thick waistlines. They are also demanding that employees share personal-health information, such as body-mass index, weight and blood-sugar level, or face higher premiums or deductibles.

Corporate_Wellness_Penalty

Six in 10 employers say they plan to impose penalties in the next few years on employees who don’t take action to improve their health, according to a recent study of 800 mid- to large-size firms by human-resources consultancy Aon Hewitt. A separate study by the National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson found that the share of employers who plan to impose penalties is likely to double to 36% in 2014. (PDF file: NBGH/Aon Hewitt Report: The Employee Health Care Mindset: Views, Behaviors, and Solutions (2010)).

Current law permits companies to use health-related rewards or penalties as long as the amount doesn’t exceed 20% of the cost of the employee’s health coverage. John P. Hancock, a veteran labor and employment attorney at Butzel Long, a Detroit-based law firm, says that while companies can’t legally dock a worker’s pay for a health issue, they can tie an employee’s health-care bill to whether the worker meets or misses health goals. As long as employers offer exemptions for workers with conditions that prevent them from meeting health goals, the firms are in the clear.

For example, employees at at Michelin North America Inc. who have high blood pressure or certain size waistlines may have to pay as much as $1,000 more for health-care coverage starting next year.

Employees at Michelin will be forced to pay the penalty unless they can prove they meet the Michelin’s corporate “healthy standards” for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and waist size—under 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Employees who hit baseline requirements in three or more categories will receive up to $1,000 to reduce their annual deductibles. Those who don’t qualify must sign up for a health-coaching program in order to earn a smaller credit.

Employers may argue that tough-love measures, such as punishing workers who evade health screenings, benefit their staff and lower health-care costs. Such steps also portend a murky future in which a chronic condition, such as hypertension, could cost workers jobs or promotions—or prevent them from being hired in the first place.

Employee-rights advocates say the penalties are akin to “legal discrimination.” While companies are calling them wellness incentives, the penalties are essentially salary cuts by a different name, says Lew Maltby, president of Princeton, N.J.-based National Workrights Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group for employee rights in the workplace. “No one ever calls a bad thing what it really is,” he says. “It means millions of people are getting their pay cut for no legitimate reason.”

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Medical Identity Theft Help – How to Detect It, How to Correct It

Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses an individual’s name or other parts of the individual’s identity – such as insurance information or Social Security Number – without the victim’s knowledge or consent to obtain medical services or goods.

data-cyber-key

Medical identity theft can also occur when someone uses the person’s identity to obtain money by falsifying claims for medical services and falsifying health records to support those claims. The essence of the crime is the use of a medical identity by a criminal and the lack of knowledge by the victim.

 

Identity theft of medical records can be especially difficult to fix. Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, said he expected the number of identity thefts from health care providers to keep rising. Consumers who have suffered medical identity theft need help and support to fix their records.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “We see hacking as a daily event. It just seems that the ability to protect this information is not easy.” As the protections become more sophisticated, “the hackers get smarter,” he said.

If you think you may be a victim of medical identity theft,  review the following quick tips for detecting and correcting medical identity theft:

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Medical Identity Theft of Health Records Is a Big Problem

Identity theft of health records (commonly referred to as “medical identity theft”) has become big business and a growing problem. Reports of health-record identity thefts jumped 61.5 percent in 2012, federal statistics show. Nationwide, 64,150 data breaches have occurred since October 2009, including 24,429 in 2012 alone, according to the Office for Civil Rights, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Privacy Identity Theft

In a report published in December 2012, the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research firm based in Traverse City, Mich., and ID Experts, data breach consultants in Portland, Ore., estimates that identity theft of health records cost the United States more than $40 billion in 2012, affecting 1.85 million people.

The toll on individuals is high. According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. households lost about $13.3 billion because of all kinds of identity theft, including health records, in 2010, the latest statistics available. The average loss per household was about $2,200. Of the 1.8 million complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011, 15 percent involved identity theft of all types.

‘Threat is constantly there’

Identity theft of medical records can be especially pernicious. In most cases, thieves use the health data to make financial mischief. More troubling are cases of people being charged for procedures and tests they did not receive and having their medical files filled with the thief’s medical history.

This so-called “medical identity theft” made up 1 percent of all identity theft complaints to the FTC in 2011. But Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group in San Diego, said this is the No. 1 issue the World Privacy Forum deals with, generating hundreds of calls each year from people whose medical files have been corrupted by thieves’ medical information.

“It has led to so much harm,” she said. “Even when there is no [medical] mistreatment, it has caused countless hours of people trying to remove incorrect information from their file. There are serious legal hurdles in removing information from your file even when it’s fraudulent.” That’s because once a medical file includes another person’s medical history, some hospitals argue it can’t be turned over without consent of the impostor.

Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, said he expected the number of identity thefts from health care providers to keep rising.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. “We see hacking as a daily event. It just seems that the ability to protect this information is not easy.” As the protections become more sophisticated, “the hackers get smarter,” he said.

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CVS Caremark To Penalize Employees Who Don’t Disclose Weight, Body Fat in Wellness Review

CVS Caremark Corporation has come under fire for asking employees covered under the company’s health care plan to disclose a range of personal information in a “wellness review” — from their weight to blood pressure — or face a financial penalty.  According to company statements, CVS is giving its 200,000 employees an ultimatum: submit your height, weight, body fat percentage (Body Mass Index, aka “BMI”), blood pressure, glucose levels, and other health indicators or suffer an on-going financial penalty of $50 per month.

Not only is CVS Caremark demanding that workers get “wellness reviews” under threat of financial penalty, CVS is also asking workers to give permission to the insurer to turn over that information to a firm that provides benefits support to CVS, the Boston Herald reports. CVS says it will pay for the weight, body fat and blood screenings. But in exchange, workers must sign a form saying the screening is voluntary, and that the insurer can give test results to WebMD Health Services Group (the firm provides health management programs and benefit support to CVS).

An internal CVS document leaked to the press warns that, “[Our CVS Caremark] Colleagues who take action to stay healthy or improve their health, and get results, will be rewarded. Those [CVS Caremark colleagues] who don’t take accountability will have to pay more in the future.” And although the CVS says the medical exams are completely voluntary, anyone who chooses not to weigh in will end up paying an extra $50 per month, or $600 a year more for benefits. And CVS employees don’t have a lot of time to decide what they’ll do; their screening results are due by May 1, 2013.

However, CVS Caremark is far from the only private or public employer one pushing workers to reveal detailed medical information. As health care costs tick up and employers rush to comply with new requirements tied to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, many companies are asking their workers (and in some cases, workers’ spouses) to undergo rigorous health care screenings aimed at encouraging healthier living — and boosting the company’s bottom line.

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“It Pays to Check Your Credit Report” Says FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection

You should really check your credit reports at least once a year. If you’re still not convinced, you should review the results of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) latest study, which shows just how error-prone and inaccurate the credit report files from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion can be.

The FTC looked at credit reports for 1,001 U.S. consumers and found that one-in-four (26%) people identified at least one material error among their credit reports from the three bureaus. These errors were not minor, but “material” in that the FTC says these alleged errors are in regard to information used to generate credit scores, including the number of collections accounts, the number of inquiries on a credit file, the number late or missed payments, among others. In other words, errors that will only cost you more money for the use of credit.

The FTC report is the first major study that looks at all the primary groups that participate in the credit reporting and scoring process: consumers; lenders/data furnishers (which include creditors, lenders, debt collection agencies, and the court system); the Fair Isaac Corporation, which develops FICO credit scores; and the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs).

Overall, the study found that around 5% of consumers saw corrections to their credit reports that resulted in a credit score swing of at least 25 points, putting them into a better credit risk tier and making them more attractive to lenders.

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Blue Shield of California to Pay $2 Million Legal Settlement for Illegal Policy Rescissions

California health insurance provider, Blue Shield, a San Francisco-based not-for-profit company, agreed to pay $2 million to the City of Los Angeles to resolve accusations that the insurance company improperly dropped policyholders after they got sick and needed expensive treatment. The settlement ends an investigation into more than 1,000 so-called rescissions by Blue Shield.

According to evidence presented in court filings, Blue Shield improperly dropped policyholders and paying customers without regard for whether their customers intended to deceive them about preexisting conditions. The practice resulted in some people losing coverage through no fault of their own, often over trivial bits of health history that had nothing to do with the claims that triggered the investigations.

President Obama made rescission a central theme in his push for a healthcare overhaul. In September 2010, a ban on rescissions for unintentional application errors became one of the first pieces of the healthcare law to take effect.

Blue Shield, in earlier agreements with state regulators, pledged to pay $3 million and to offer new coverage to hundreds of former policyholders. In recent years, Blue Shield is among a handful of California insurers that have paid millions to state and local regulators in response to investigations into the systematic dropping of policyholders with expensive medical needs.

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Medical Identity Theft a Growing Problem in US; Fastest-Growing Segment of Identity Theft

Medical identity theft has claimed 1.5 million victims in the United States, according to the PwC’s Health Research Institute in its research study, “Old Data Learns New Tricks”.  In fact, medical identity theft is the fastest growing segment of identity theft in America, says Jim Koenig, director and leader of PwC’s identity theft practice.

Phil Blank, a senior analyst with Javelin Strategy and Research, which examines incidents of fraud and helps clients respond to them, said 8% of data breach victims in the U.S. had their medical information stolen in 2010. Medical records were the fifth most commonly stolen data. The most common was credit-card numbers. Blank cited the slow economy and more people losing insurance as drivers behind increasing medical identity theft.

Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum, said in a 2006 report that “medical identity theft may also harm its victims by creating false entries in their health records at hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and insurance companies.”  She said the changes to the records could remain in the files for many years. “Victims of medical identity theft may receive the wrong medical treatment, find their health insurance exhausted, and could become uninsurable for both life and health insurance coverage,” Dixon said in the report.

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One Year Anniversary of The Signing of The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act

One year ago this week, on March 23, 2010, President Barack H. Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The one year anniversary will be marked by a series of events from proponents and opponents of the law who are still waging a pitched battle over provisions of the health care legislation.

Administration officials and progressive groups are scheduling more than 100 events across the country this week to sing the praises of the health care law, as Republicans continue to attack its provisions.

Among the prominent Democrats promoting the law this week are Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Tom Vilsack, Secretary of The Department of Agriculture (USDA); Hilda Solis, Secretary of The Department of Labor (DOL); Karen Mills, Administrator of The Small Business Administration (SBA), and Dr. Regina Benjamin, the Surgeon General (OSG), according to news reports and official schedules. Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Majority Leader, has a small business event on health care planned in his state of Nevada, too.

Health Care for America Now, a coalition of advocacy groups, is sponsoring 75 events in 27 states this week. The coalition of advocacy groups has set a theme for each day: Monday: Protecting Small Business’s Care; Tuesday: Protecting Seniors’ Care; Wednesday: Protecting Patients’ Rights; Thursday: Protecting Women’s Care; and Friday: Protecting Young Adults’ Care. (more…)

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Uncertainty in Health Care Reform Law Causes Worry About Care Limits

In February 2011, a federal judge ruled that Congress violated the Constitution by requiring Americans to buy insurance as part of the health overhaul passed last year, and said the entire law “must be declared void.” With his ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson set up a clash over whether the Obama administration still has the authority to carry out the law designed to expand insurance to 32 million Americans.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said the ruling meant the 26 states challenging the law must halt implementation of pieces that apply to states and certain small businesses represented by plaintiffs. But the Obama administration said it has no to plans to halt implementation of the law. Already, it has mailed rebate checks to seniors with high prescription drug costs, helped set up insurance pools for people with pre-existing medical conditions and required insurers to allow children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until they reach age 26.

“We will continue to operate as we have previously,” a senior administration official said.

Meanwhile, faced with the uncertainty of the implementation of the law, patients around the country are growing anxious and worried about what the court’s ruling, and the politics of Washington, will mean for their own healthcare and insurance policies. For example, Hillary St. Pierre, a 28-year-old former registered nurse who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had expected to reach her insurance plan’s $2 million limit this year. Under the new law, the cap was eliminated when the policy she gets through her husband’s employer was renewed this year.

Ms. St. Pierre, who has already come close once before to losing her coverage because she had reached the plan’s maximum, says she does not know what she will do if the cap is reinstated. “I will be forced to stop treatment or to alter my treatment,” Ms. St. Pierre, who lives in Charlestown, N.H., with her husband and son, said in an e-mail.
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