Your Identification And You: Why Your Doctor Needs Your Information, And How It Helps In An Emergency

Have you ever wondered why, when you make an appointment with your doctor or sometimes even when you visit an urgent care clinic, you need to bring your social security number and photo identification? Do you wonder what would happen if you were in an emergency and could not provide this information?

You may find your doctor's request for your private social security number and photo unnecessary, but there are actually significant reasons behind these policies. Furthermore, there are things you should do now to minimize complications, should an emergency arise. 

Does Your Doctor Really Need Your Social Security Number?

Those who enter the medical profession often do so to make a positive impact on others' lives. Like all service professionals, however, your doctor needs to pay the bills. Seeing that 79 million Americans report medical debt or medical bill problems, your doctor has a compelling reason to be concerned about whether or not you plan to pay your bill. One of the ways that your doctor minimizes the risk of nonpayment is by collecting patients' social security numbers. 

Regardless of whether you fail to pay your medical bill intentionally or because of financial hardship, your doctor still loses money. With your social security number, however, your doctor can more easily collect the money you owe. This may not sound fun to you, but keep in mind that your doctor is not asking for your social security number purely out of distrust. If you present governmental health insurance, like Medicaid or Medicare, your doctor needs your social security number to collect repayment. Many non-governmental health insurance providers also use social security numbers to identify patients; when repayment time emerges, your doctor will already have your social security number on hand and will not bother you if the office later discovers that it needs this information. 

Does Your Doctor Really Need Your License?

The world is increasingly turning to the internet for efficiency, ease of access, and modernity. Unfortunately, online databases are particularly vulnerable--and valuable--to identity theft rings. When a hacker penetrates a medical database and collects the data that it stores, your credit is not the only thing at risk. Your actual health is also in jeopardy.

Often, when hackers steal personal data from a medical facility, they resell the information to those without health insurance. The purchaser will assume your identity and rack up a medical bill that will be traced to you. Furthermore, the fraudster may even update medical information in your file to match her own medical needs, like changing the blood type or deleting allergy alerts. As a result, your next scheduled appointment can be fatal. 

Hackers are not the only ones you need to worry about. Family members often have easy access your personal data, and might choose to use it for their own medical needs so that your health insurance foots the bill. This is not always out of malice. Many people simply fail to realize the dangerous effects that sharing medical identities can really have. 

To prevent medical identity theft, your doctor may have a photo identification policy. For example, your clinic may take your photo and keep it in your file; whenever you check in for an appointment, the staff members will ask for your driver's license and compare it both to you and the picture in your file. This minimizes the chances that someone else has made a personal appointment in your name. 

What Happens in an Emergency?

Doctors can legally turn you away, even for lack of identification. Yet, in an emergency situation, a doctor must assess your medical situation before turning you away. If the doctor sees that you do indeed need urgent care, that doctor must treat you, regardless of whether or not you have identification or your social security number on hand. After all, if you need urgent care, you may not be able to provide your social security number or driver's license. On the other hand, if the doctor does not have this information and determines that you do not need assistance, you can indeed be refused service.

Naturally, this is not the ideal situation. If you can, leave the contact information of your preferred doctor, clinic, or hospital in a readily-available place. Usually, employers will ask for this information, but remember to also tell close family members or friends of your preferences. This way, if an emergency happens, you can be treated by a doctor or clinic that already has your social security number and photo on file.