By Jennifer Parks | ABC 15 News, October 27, 2010
PHOENIX – Lauri Gibbons of Peoria never expected her personal medical information would make it into the hands of anyone other than her doctor, but she was wrong.
“This is personal information that nobody should have except my doctor,” she said.
Gibbons is just one of 128 Valley patients who have had their medical identities stolen.
The Peoria grandmother noticed on her benefits statement somebody was billing her insurance company for hundreds dollars in medical services she never received. Everything from tests to X-rays.
“They were saying it’s basically for therapy,” Gibbons said laughing. “I’ve never had therapy.”
On the claim, a phony collection company listed the address of service at her real doctor’s office at the Minor family clinic in Phoenix.
The problem is they got the doctor wrong and on the statement it listed a Scottsdale geriatrics physician named Dr. Scott Bernstein.
“The patient’s name was a patient I’d never seen or heard of,” said Bernstein.
The doctor said he started hearing from numerous Valley residents he’d never treated. That’s when Bernstein and the Valley grandmother called Arizona’s Department of Insurance.
“When all those pieces of information added up quickly, this is more than an clerical mistake,” Bernstein said.
“It’s fraud,” said Gibbons. “Insurance fraud.”
Department of Insurance investigators say an Armenian mob ring somehow stole 128 different patients’ records from the Minor family clinic in Phoenix and then started operating an insurance fraud scheme out of vacant office buildings.
Investigators say 23-year-old Gevorg Melkonyan of Glendale, Calif. and 44-year old Elina Arutyunova of Phoenix set up only a phone and fax machine and bilked about $108,000 from 10 different insurance companies.
“There was a P.O. box that the checks went to and somebody went and collected the checks from the insurance company,” said Department of Insurance spokesperson Erin Kug.
The pair has been indicted and now faces a huge list of charges.
The victims and the Department of Insurance are warning patients to study your statements so your medical identity isn’t stolen.
“If your medical identity is stolen and it reflects treatment that you never had, it could affect your future medical treatment and also your ability to one day get insurance,” Klug said.
To get more information on how to protect your medical identity go to www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa.