Credit identity theft crimes are nothing new, and there have been laws on the books to protect individuals in those cases.
But until Thursday, the General Assembly hadn’t taken on the issue of medical identity fraud.
That was the issue that gave District 67 Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) his first victory in his three months at the Capitol.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 52-1 on March 7, made it through the House Thursday by a vote of 167-1 with Gravley sponsoring it. It now awaits Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature.
“I had to flex a little muscle,” Gravley joked.
The bill Gravley helped push through amends the current identity fraud law, which was previously limited to money, credit or goods, to include several issues related to healthcare where fraud is a problem.
Gravley said the average victim of identity theft is exposed to about $2,000 in losses, but that number skyrockets to about $20,000 for medical identity theft.
Gravley cited one example where a woman’s health insurance policy number was stolen and used for $50,000 worth of healthcare services and medication in roughly 11 states.
That was the type of problem he and state Sen. Judson Hill, who sponsored the bill in that chamber, were trying to address. With the new law, Gravley said medical identity theft will be prosecuted the same way as identity theft.
“This will stop it,” said Gravley. “We’re defining specifically medical identity theft. Much like your credit cards are protected now, you can be alerted.”
The bill adds all individual health records to the identity fraud statute, including everything from doctors’ examinations to nursing home and assisted living facility records, to prescriptions, mental health and dental records.
The legislation also adds veterans and military identification numbers to the list of private “identifying information” like Social Security numbers and bank accounts.
A separate clause in the law specifies protections for health insurance, health savings accounts, Medicare and Medicaid accounts and different types of medical insurance including health, dental and vision.
“If you are not the lawful owner and you use those accounts, we have defined this as an issue of identity fraud in the code section,” Gravley said. “So it’s now in Georgia law, these definitions, which I think it’s going to help us better be able to go after Medicaid fraud. When we’ve got a shortfall in the budget, this is an issue. Millions are lost every year. We’re going to have to start addressing it.”
With it being his first bill to make it through both houses, Gravley said he was subjected to the traditional hazing from other state representatives before they voted on the bill.
Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Fayetteville), a former Georgia Tech football player, got in on the fun at Gravley’s expense.
“He said my medical records from Georgia Tech specifically stated that I had four percent body fat and six pack abs,” said Gravley. “Are those records going to be protected under that bill?”