While I am normally loath to anchor a post in a personal anecdote, yesterday’s case study might encourage readers to discuss their experiences with information overreach and what strategies have proven to be successful in beating them back.
The bottom line here is I did prevail in an arm wrestle over an unreasonable request, but it wasn’t pretty, and I came close to being the loser.
Regular readers have probably seen me mention that I don’t have a smart phone so as to avoid GPS location.1 Consistent with that, I don’t give up my SSN to medical providers (one time that meant not getting a test ordered by my MD since the lab he strongly preferred would not book me without an SSN) and I delete certain provisions of standard HIPPA documents (some MD offices don’t care, others go on tilt). So I am pretty consistent within the limited realm of influence I have.
I’m withholding the name of the guilty company, which provides all sorts of tests, like CT scans, MRIs, digital X rays, and ultrasound, in free standing clinics in the South since the head office types who created the unreasonable policies might beat up on the local staffers.
I went in yesterday to a nearby location for an image, doctor Rx in hand. I had gone to this vendor in January in a different office for the same type of test, so I was (or should have been) in their records. Both times, I paid myself at the time of service; yesterday, as before, they ran my credit card in advance.1
They then asked to copy my driver’s license.
I said I didn’t understand the request. I explained that I had just paid for the test, so they were not exposed to the risk of insurance fraud. I said I had not been asked to allow them to copy my driver’s license in January. I said I was very concerned about identity theft, I’d just had a friend go through trying to get her life and finances straightened out after that and it was horrific. I offered to let them sight my license.
There was a man and a woman behind the desk. I had been dealing with the woman but the man next to her interceded. He said that some things had changed since January. I reiterated that they had no need for a copy of my license. He then left briefly, and then came back and said he’d called and they needed a copy of my license.3
The staffer then said it was company policy, that he could either give me a refund or take a copy of my license.
I normally might not have escalated so quickly (and my bad tendency is to escalate) but he’d been patronizing and became even more so (too obvious subtext: “You dumb bitch, what about ‘our policy’ don’t you understand?”), which is like waving a red flag in front of me.
I said since no one had a copy of my license, the only way I could accede to their requirement would be if they signed a note agreeing to assume liability for exposure or misuse of the image. I also told him I had a website that got 1.5 million page views a month and I’d be writing up their company’s reckless, nonsensical policies.
The “1.5 million” cut through his bureaucratic veneer. He stiffened, got angry and said I couldn’t have the MRI, he’d be issuing a refund. I shot back, “You aren’t going to win this one,” that taking that stance would look even worse in a writeup.
A young woman emerged from the back. Turns out she was a manager type. She offered to have me sign a release so that the information from my test would go only to me, not to an MD. Since they give the patient the image on a disk at the time of treatment, the only part I would have to collect was the radiologist’s report.
Understand how bass-ackwards this is. The company’s pretense is that they need a driver’s license image to make sure that they don’t send a patient’s test results to the wrong doctor. It’s clearly ludicrous because they asked for no driver’s license information on my intake forms, nor did they take any shots of my face to link to or store with the images so they could compare them to the driver’s license photo. I can’t fathom in what universe this makes any sense. Consistent with that, I’ve gone to quite a few clinical labs and imaging centers in the US and Oz and never never never had any think a copy of an official ID was necessary to keep their records sorted.
I told the manager woman that this outcome was actually better. I’d seen the the ordering MD in New York only once, didn’t much like her and found some key statements to be inconsistent, so I was fine with not having to deal with her again. I mentioned I was planning to take the images and the report to a local doctor instead.
The manager said she could fax the radiologist’s report to the local MD…inconsistent with the release I’d just signed, to have the records go only to me.
Mind you, it was only due to getting an unexpected break that this impasse was resolved in my favor. Normally getting ugly is an exercise in futility.
If readers have any helpful hints for dealing with other types of unwarranted information grabs, please pipe up!
1 I rarely have my dumb phone charged and even when it is, it seldom leaves the house. But please do not try contending that triangulation is as accurate as GPS. It isn’t. Courts have rejected the use of triangulation in prosecutions because it is too approximate to determine the location of a suspect at a particular time. As important, unlike GPS, a dumb phone doesn’t keep location-revealing data on it. And unless a warrant was put out on your mobile in advance, phone companies retain data that can be used for triangulation only for when you were using the device, as in calling or texting.
2 I pay for all labwork and any medical imaging out of pocket and submit to my insurer for reimbursement. Two reasons: first, the “cash” price is as low as, and sometimes markedly lower, than the best insurance negotiated rate, so I save money. Second, the insurer does not have the right to my test results if they are not paying, although they obviously do get diagnosis and procedure codes. If I had chronic medical conditions, it might not be so smart to have my medical records fragmented across doctors and labs, but aside from having beaten up joints, I am healthy as a horse and not allergic to any medications.
3 As you’ll see soon, this looks to have been false, plus his time away from the desk was so short that if he actually called, the most he could have conveyed would have been something like, “We have to have a copy of a driver’s license, right?”