Wifi provider inserts TOS clause requiring 1000 hrs of community service cleaning toilets & 20,000 users agree. https://t.co/AVYG6vgH7A #law

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“He found that DNA can store a million million times more #data than a compact disc in the same space.” Not a typo. https://t.co/BaHKdRMiml

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How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You

In the article “How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You”, the website Lifehacker.com featured information from AnnualMedicalReport.com.

As Lifehacker.com explains, “When you apply for a job, auto insurance, life insurance, a bank account, or even set up your electric bill, chances are the company you’re talking to will go talk to some other companies, called consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), to find out your previous history. Under law, you have a right to see what’s in these reports.”

You’re probably familiar with the big three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, but many other agencies collect your information for the purposes of selling reports to landlords, insurers, banks, employers, and other companies. According to Annual Medical Report:

There are roughly 400 consumer reporting agencies in the U.S., with three companies dominating the market – Equifax Information Services LLC, Experian Information Solutions Inc., and TransUnion LLC. In addition to the “Big 3″ credit reporting bureaus, there are hundreds of other “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies” also collect and sell personal consumer information, such as banking histories, health data, medical payments, tenancy, employment, and insurance claims. These specialty credit reporting companies assemble or evaluate a consumer’s personal information, then sell it to third parties. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warns consumers that,

“Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies focus on certain industries, such as insurance. There are a lot of these companies.”

Many important decisions are made on these CRA reports, so it’s in your best interest to make sure the information is accurate, just like you should check your credit report annually (because more than a quarter of reports have errors on them). You can’t have your information removed from these agencies altogether, but you do have a legal right to see and dispute the information. It could make the difference between getting disability insurance or being turned down for it or even missing out on a job opportunity.

Many of the bureaus will send your report for free once a year after you jump through a few online form or phone call hoops; others will require a fee. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a partial list of the major consumer reporting agencies, their contact information, and how to order your report. Here’s the link to the CFPB’s list of major consumer reporting agencies in PDF format. (Please note, the CFPB’s list of specialty consumer reporting agencies is incomplete).”

For more information, read the full article “How to See the Info Consumer Reporting Agencies Have Collected on You” on Lifehacker.com.

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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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Download or Print a Free MIB Report Request Sample Form

The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides every consumer with the right to request a free annual medical report file disclosure from the Medical Information Bureau (MIB, Inc.) and it’s membership of 500 insurance companies.

Under consent agreements with the Federal Trade Commission in 1983 and 1995, “the MIB, Inc., and all insurance companies who are members of the MIB, will abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

To request a copy of your free MIB report, you should complete ONE of the following options:

Toll-Free Telephone – “Streamlined Request”

(1) Call the MIB, Inc. toll-free telephone number at 1-866-692-6901 to make your request. (Note – The MIB “Voice Cue” is available Monday – Friday, 6AM -12AM ET, closed on holidays. According to the MIB phone disclosure website, “MIB’s disclosure process requires you to provide your personal identification information to assist us in locating your MIB Consumer File, should one exist. The ID information you supply will be validated with other consumer reporting agencies.”  As an additional warning, please be aware that the MIB voicemail system records and retains your personal information and voice imprint. If you are suspected of fraud, MIB reserves the right to use this recording as evidence against you.)

Written Request by Mail

(2) Download or Print this free MIB disclosure request form (PDF link). Then mail the completed and signed form to “MIB, Inc. 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, MA 02184” to make your request. (Note – MIB, Inc. has taken the position that the FCRA does not require it to comply with a consumers’ express written request for free annual disclosure of their MIB file. As a warning to consumers, MIB publicly states, “Because a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure is supposed to be submitted via the Streamlined Process [1-866-692-6901] only, MIB reserves the right to decline a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure that is made using this form [by mail]. In such an event, MIB may instruct the consumer to use MIB’s Streamlined Process [1-866-692-6901]. Alternatively, MIB may also process a consumer’s request for free annual disclosure using this form if the consumer declines to use MIB’s Streamlined Process, but agrees to pay the fee [$10.50] that is allowed by law.” It is has yet to be determined whether MIB’s refusal to honor the valid, written requests of consumers is legal or illegal under federal and state law.)

MIB.com Online Submission Form

(3) Complete and submit the MIB.com online request form located on the MIB website. (Note – When you submit your information online, it may be validated by an unnamed third-party consumer reporting agency. According to the MIB.com Website Privacy Policy for Consumer File Requests – “If you are visiting MIB’s website to request disclosure of your MIB Consumer File (if any) or to dispute its contents, MIB will collect personal information from you. This information will be securely collected and maintained by MIB and will be used solely to process your request. Specifically, the personal information that you provide to MIB will be used to verify your identity, to conduct an accurate search of MIB’s databases and to confirm that the search results (if any) actually relate to you.  MIB does not sell, share, transfer, lease or otherwise disclose the personal information that you provide to any third-parties, except that MIB will validate the information you provide with other consumer reporting agencies to confirm your identity.“)

Upon receipt and validation of your request, the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. must provide disclosure to you by postal mail within 15 business days. If MIB does not have a “consumer file” on you, the law requires MIB to provide a “no record” letter explaining that a record does not exist.

An “MIB consumer file” may include: (1) Any medical and personal information that MIB maintains in its database about you, if any, in the form of translated MIB codes; and (2) the name(s) of the MIB member insurance companies, if any, that: (A) reported information to MIB, along with the dates such information was reported; (B) received a copy of your MIB Consumer File during the three (3) year period preceding your request for disclosure and the dates the companies received your file; and, (C) made an inquiry to MIB about you within the past two (2) years, along with the dates of such inquiries.

Upon review of the contents of your MIB consumer file disclosure, if you believe that any information is incomplete or inaccurate, you should contact the MIB, Inc. directly to initiate a dispute. (The mailing address is “MIB, Inc. 50 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 400, Braintree, MA 02184”) If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), the MIB must investigate your claim (unless the dispute is “frivolous”). See www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore for an explanation of dispute procedures.

Inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 45 days. However, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), may continue to report information it has verified as accurate. For all types of consumer file information, the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (a specialty consumer reporting agency), may not report negative information that is more than seven years old.

As a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency, MIB Inc. “must provide a toll-free number that is published in every telephone directory in which a number for the company appears, and is clearly and prominently posted on the company’s website. In addition, federal law requires the company to have clear and easy instructions for consumers to get these reports, and adequate staff in place or means to deal with consumers’ requests.” If the Medical Information Bureau Inc. (MIB), or any other specialty consumer reporting agency, violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) with respect to your inforamtion, you may be able to file a lawsuit seeking damages in state or federal court.

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB), a Delaware corporation, is the world’s largest insurance reporting agency and represents approximately 500 member insurance companies.  “The Medical Information Bureau (a/k/a, MIB Group, Inc., a/k/a, MIB, Inc., a/k/a, MIB Solutions, Inc.) collects and furnishes information on consumers to all Medical Information Bureau (MIB) member corporations for use in the insurance underwriting process.”

In addition to an individual’s credit history, data collected by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) may include “medical conditions, driving records, criminal activity, drug use, participation in hazardous sports, and personal or family genetic history, among other facts.”  Under Federal law, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) is a “consumer-reporting agency” and is required by law to provide a medical report to consumers every 12 months.

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Medical Information Bureau (MIB Inc.) is Valuable Unit of the Insurance Industry

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB, Inc.) is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency for health conditions and personal lifestyle data. The MIB consists of approximately 500 insurance company members.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, MIB’s member companies account for 99 percent of the individual life insurance policies and 80 percent of all health and disability policies issued in the United States and Canada.

“MIB’s value to the insurance industry can hardly be overestimated. Not only to do some applicants forget to list ailments that could cost the insurer money but fraudulent applications are common.”

The Medical Information Bureau, Inc. (MIB, Inc.) also “plays a critical role in the lives of many thousands of individuals, affecting not only their security but their finances as well. But many of those affected have little idea that the MIB played a part. This is partly by design.” (Source, “Medical Bureau is Valuable Unit of Insurance Industry” published by The Associated Press (AP) on July 14, 1971). (more…)

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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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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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Credit Reporting Agency Equifax Workforce Solutions Hired by HHS to Verify Incomes for Obamacare Insurance Subsidies

Equifax Workforce Solutions (a/k/a TALX Corporation, a/k/a The Work Number, a wholly owned subsidiary of Equifax Inc.)  was recently awarded a federal contract by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to verify the incomes, employment, and employer-sponsored health coverage status (including price) of American consumers who apply for federal tax credits to offset insurance premium costs under the Obamacare insurance mandate (as stipulated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)).

The contract between HHS and Equifax is for an initial 12-month period, with yearly options to renew, bringing its potential value to $329.4 million over five years. As reported, “Equifax Workforce Solutions will provide information [about individuals] 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.

The basic application for health coverage under Obamacare includes warnings that applicants are “signing under penalty of perjury” and consent to verify information in “databases from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security, Department of Homeland Security, and/ or a consumer reporting agency.” This arrangement is fraught with peril for consumers. Under the PPACA health insurance mandate, all consumers must purchase this financial product; for consumers seeking tax credits through federally-run HIE’s, there are no reasonable choices or alternatives but to subject yourself to the consumer reporting agency background check / income verification process.

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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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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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Health Insurance Reform At a Glance – Insurance Market Reforms that Protect Consumers

The recently enacted Federal Health Care law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is designed to improve the health insurance marketplace by strengthening consumer protections and providing consumers with the information they need to choose the best health care coverage for their families.

The following list of consumer protections is prepared by the United States House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor.

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Healthcare.gov Open for Consumers and Health Insurance Companies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under the authority of President Barack Obama, unveiled an innovative new online tool to help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage.  As stipulated by the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool.

HealthCare.gov helps consumers take control of their health care and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate.  HealthCare.gov makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to compare health insurance plans in both the public and the private sector and find other important health care information.”

HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, combining information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans. Consumers can receive information about options specific to their life situation and local community. In addition, the website will be a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as other health care resources. The website will connect consumers to quality rankings for local health care providers as well as preventive services. (more…)

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