Hospitals likely to need help with identity theft fight, IRS rules

Hospitals are groaning and accounts receivable management companies are cheering at the federal regulations going into effect at the beginning of next month. A handful of regulatory actions affecting how hospitals deal with their financial information are likely to push hospitals into calling in extra help from vendors and consultants, observers say.

As we've previously reported, starting November 1, hospitals will be required by the FTC to develop a written plan of how they will comply with new Red Flag Alert legislation, designed to force creditors to protect consumers from identity theft. Hospitals must make sure the monitoring is based on the facility's specific history with identity theft, updated annually and approved by its board. Also, at the beginning of 2009, hospitals will have to deal with revisions to IRS Form 990, which requires hospitals to document management policies, political campaigning and lobbying, non-cash contributions and information on tax-exempt bonds.

Tougher regulations like these are creating an opportunity for vendors like TransUnion and software vendor nTelagent, which offer software that verifies a patient's identity to fight identity theft. Tools like these offer providers methods for tracking down inaccurate Social Security numbers, doubtful age information, questionable insurance data and more. Some packages like these offer prompts to employees telling them how to handle the specific issue, too.

Meanwhile, hospitals are likely to need plenty of consulting help compiling information for their Form 990s, which will require information on governance and management, political campaigning and lobbying, non-cash contributions and tax-exempt bonds. Later, in the 2010 filing year, the ante will only be raised further, will hospitals being required to document bad debt expense and charitable giving.

To learn more about the changes:
- read this InsideARM piece

Related Articles:
FTC cracks down on medical identity theft
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The growing problem of medical identity theft
IRS releases instructions for new Form 990