Friday, September 30, 2016

What We Can Do

What can we do? First, form citizens oversight committees to oversee police, courts and other government officials. Get involved.

Realize that we are in inverted totalitarianism and the levers of power have been seized by the ruling class and we only are lead to believe that we have true democracy. Manufactured consent results in comments like “We must support our police", when we live in a police state…yes…a police state (why do you think we have police getting military equipment….tanks, machine guns….this is for the coming of the failure of capitalism). Remember: Police and Blackwater troops have already been used against American citizens in New Orleans. They turned their guns against poor blacks trying to escape the flood waters of hurricane Katrina and shot some of them dead.

Robots are taking the jobs and they are not coming back. The idea of exchanging money for labor is obsolete. The wealthy see this coming and they are ensuring that we have a strong military and police force to defend them. There is an acute shortage of natural resources, including water…the war in Syria is a resource war over water.

Examine white privilege and the damage it does to us all …along with income inequality.

Black slaves and their families never got the 40 acres and a mule that were promised to them. Blacks have never been able to participate in the capitalistic system. Reparations could include a permanent tax free status for blacks to make up for 500 years of slavery, Jim Crow, inequality, dishonored treaties, destroyed legacies, loss of interest and property…….. and injustice.

A formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow should be issued. Slaves should be honored for their uncompensated labor that made this country great.

Evaluate: communities of color and poor communities have been chained by the justice system and prisons …and…these chains are being readied for the rest of us.

The ruling class does not want to see us at peace or to see our families happy or healthy.

They want to reduce the population. Why do you think they prosecute wars and fight so hard to prevent universal healthcare. 66% of our budget goes to war…not to schools, not to hospitals, healthcare, housing..the weak and vulnerable….in fact, only 1% goes to anti-poverty programs and they keep wanting to cut that to reduce the deficit.

Stop the war on drugs and mass incarceration. Invest into new schools instead of new prisons.

Eliminate student loans and make education free for all (we can afford it) the bloated defense budget is proof of that. European nations, Asian nations…do not have to have large military forces. OUR TROOPS are protecting them, so, they have four day work weeks and massive paid vacations.

Reevaluate this primitive tradition of locking up criminals. Let’s rehab them…as they do in Europe.

Let’s treat our elderly with dignity. Build Disney like facilities that have buildings, food, music…like the old times and allow them to live out their lives in dignity (this is done in Europe…down to having old cars). THIS instead of horrible nursing homes.

Eliminate items  and institutions that honor the Confederacy…as Germans have done with the Nazi’s and Hitler. No more Robert E. Lee High and black cheerleaders wearing “The Rebels” on their uniforms. No more Edmund Pettis Bridge. No more Confederate flags. Black people should not be forced to honor the Confederate criminals no more than Jews should be forced to honor Hitler and the Nazis or Americans to honor Osama Bin Laden, The Taliban.

The black community has always been a canary in the coal mine. What happens to them eventually happens to all. The police that kill black men now, will kill others, later.

Just as conservatives and neo liberals engineered the drug wars to destroy the civil rights movement and communities of color in the 1960’s, now, white males are dying at higher numbers than anyone else in the addiction war.

Most of us, have been taught what to think, not how to think. The lame stream media creates this false picture of police and military forces with all the police shows, movies and embedded news anchors. 

We have to tell our own stories, to know the truth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hannibal B. Johnson: Special Broadcast - The Worse Race Riot in U.S. History

Special Broadcast: Featuring Hannibal B. Johnson, Esq. as we discuss the mass killing of black people by whites in Tulsa, OK in 1921.

Tulsa, OK 1921. The total number of black people killed will never be know. 

Progress in the World Radio Show
9 AM to 11 AM

Call in Number 310-861-2349

The interview with Hannibal will take place between 9 AM and 10 AM.
Callers will be able to vent their opinions between 10 AM and 11 AM.

Join us and share this event.

Hannibal B. Johnson is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He did his undergraduate work at The University of Arkansas, where he completed a double major in economics and sociology. Johnson is an attorney, author, and independent consultant specializing in diversity & inclusion/cultural competence issues and nonprofit governance. Johnson has also served as an adjunct professor at The University of Tulsa College of Law (legal writing; legal ethics), Oklahoma State University (leadership and group dynamics; business law [MBA Program]), and the University of Oklahoma (ethics; cultural diversity; race & reason; The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot; nonprofit leadership & management).

Johnson is past president of Leadership Tulsa, past president of the Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League and past president of the Northeast Oklahoma Black Lawyers Association. He served as Chairman of the board of directors of The Community Leadership Association, an international leadership organization, during 2001 – 2002, and is a founding director of the Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. He currently serves on the Oklahoma Advisory Committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and as Immediate Past Chairman of the board of directors of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Johnson directed Anytown, Oklahoma, a statewide human relations camp for teens, for more than a decade. He has served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma and on the Advisory Board of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference of the Southwest. Johnson served as chairman of board of directors of The Rotary Club of Tulsa, 2015 – 2016, and chaired the Club’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee during that same period. 

He serves on the Institutional Review Board for Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, on the Tulsa Public Schools Fine Arts Advisory Board and is a past chair of the board of directors of the Foundation for Tulsa Schools. He has also served as a member of the board of directors of the Oklahoma Humanities Council. He served on the Programs Committee for the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and organized the Center’s annual symposium for several years. In 2004, Mr. Johnson graduated with the inaugural class of the national “Connecting Community Fellowship Program” based in Richmond, Virginia.

Johnson’s books include: Images of America: Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District; Black Wall Street--From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District; Up From the Ashes—A Story About Community; Acres of Aspiration—The All-Black Towns in Oklahoma; Mama Used To Say—Wit & Wisdom From The Heart & Soul; No Place Like HomeA Story About an All-Black, All-American Town; IncogNegroPoetic Reflections on Race & Diversity in America; and Apartheid in Indian Country?: Seeing Red Over Black Disenfranchisement. Johnson’s play, Big Mama Speaks—A Tulsa Race Riot Survivor’s Story, has been performed at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Philbrook Museum of Art, and was selected for the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Johnson is a contributing writer to the Encyclopedia of African American History (New York, New York: Facts on File, Inc. 2010), penning two articles: Langston, Oklahoma and the Birth of the All-Black Town Movement; and Edward Preston McCabe—The Father of the All-Black Town Movement).

Johnson’s honors include: the 2016 Whitney M. Young, Jr., Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America; the 2015 National Philanthropy Day Award for Diversity and Inclusion from the Association of Fundraising Professionals; the 2013 “The Inclusives” diversity award from Tulsa’s Young Professionals; the 2012 “Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award” from the Oklahoma Bar Association; the “Don Newby/Ben Hill” award from Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry; the “Keeping The Dream Alive” award from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Society; the “Outstanding Service to the Public Award” from the Oklahoma Bar Association; the “Ten Outstanding Young Tulsans” award from the Tulsa Jaycees; the “Distinguished Leadership Award” from the National Association for Community Leadership; the 2005 “Ralph Ellison Literary Award” from the Black Liberated Arts Center; the 2006 Oklahoma Human Rights Award from the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission;  induction into the 100 Black Men of Tulsa, Inc. “Hall of Honor” in 2007; and the “Goodwill Appreciation Award” from the Islamic Society of Tulsa in 2008.


Hannibal B. Johnson

  • Apartheid in Indian Country? looks at the controversy over the citizenship status of the descendants of persons of African ancestry who lived among the Five Civilized Tribes, the “Freedmen.” The ancestors of some of the Freedmen were enslaved by the Five Tribes, while others were free persons living among those tribes. The Freedmen claim treaty, blood, and affinity relationships to the Five Tribes. [Audience: high school students and adults] (Eakin Press; ISBN 13: 978-1-935632-34-4) 

o   Black Wall Street traces the history of Tulsa’s African-American community, renowned nationally in the early twentieth century for its preeminent Black entrepreneurs. Tulsa was the site of the worst race riot in American history in 1921. Some 300 people were killed and property damage ran into the millions.  Tulsa’s African-Americans overcame. The Greenwood District was rebuilt and, by 1942, boasted 242 black-owned and black-operated business establishments. The book is a testament to the human spirit. [Audience: high school students and adults] (Eakin Press; ISBN 193464538-9)

  • Up From The Ashes tells the story of the development, destruction, and rebuilding of a dynamic neighborhood from a child’s perspective. Based on actual historical events, it is a positive, life-affirming book. Readers will discover what it means to be part of a community, with all its ups and downs.  The book demonstrates many of the timeless virtues we all cherish, not just for ourselves, but for our children: faith, determination, integrity, humility, and compassion. [Audience: elementary school students] (Eakin Press; ISBN 978-1-940130-43-9)     

o   Acres of Aspiration tells the story of the all-Black towns in Oklahoma.  Prominently in Kansas, then principally in Oklahoma, all-black towns founded by black seekers mushroomed in the post-Reconstruction era.  Weary Southern migrants formed their own frontier communities, largely self-sustaining.  Black towns offered hope—hope of full citizenship; hope of self-governance; and hope of full participation, through land ownership, in the American dream. Despite an auspicious beginning, the all-black town movement crested between 1890 and 1910, a time when American capitalism transitioned from agrarian to urban. This and a host of other social and economic factors ultimately sealed the fates of these unique, historic oases. Many perished.  Most faded. Only the strong survived. The few that remain serve as testaments to the human spirit and monuments to the power of hope, faith, and community. [Audience: high school students and adults] (Eakin Press; ISBN 1-57168-664-9)

  • Mama Used to Say captures one mother’s wit and wisdom on a whole host of twelve select topics: life & living; family & relationships; right & wrong; money & work; time; success & failure; race; religion; love; respect; education; and integrity.  At once witty and poignant, Mama Used to Say, through its anecdotes, adages, meditations, and reflections, offers the reader opportunities for self-examination and personal growth.  The common thread running through Mama Used to Say is the universality of a mother’s love and seemingly boundless capacity for nurturing, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. [Audience: high school students and adults] (HAWK Publishing; ISBN 1-930709-46-3)

o    IncogNegro recounts, poetically, stories of race and diversity. Listen.  Listening breeds empathy, evokes compassion, and moves us a step closer to walking the proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes. Everything begins with that first step. Ultimately, like actors on the world stage, each of us has some role, however small, to play in fostering an accepting, inclusive, diverse community. (PublishAmerica; ISBN 1-60474-696-3).

o    Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District recounts the Greenwood story in captioned photographs. [Audience: high school students and adults] (Arcadia Publishing; ISBN978-1-4671-1128-7)


Diversity & Inclusion: Diversity is. Inclusion may or may not be. Understanding and appreciating our differences and core commonalities is essential. Let an expert help you leverage your human capital.

o    Diversity and inclusion assessments
o    Diversity and inclusion lectures, workshops, and one-on-one consultation
o    Promoting mutual respect/understanding differences
o    Fostering awareness of our ever-changing diversity 
o    Encouraging strategic thinking about diversity
o    Stimulating critical thinking about diversity issues

Nonprofit Leadership & Management: In today’s world, nonprofit organizations are more important than ever. Let an expert assist you with your nonprofit needs, from training and development to coaching.

o    Understanding board/staff roles & responsibilities
o    Creating a diverse board
o    Conducting effective board meetings
o    Examining legal rights & responsibilities

Strategic Planning: It is critical to have a plan. Let an expert help you and your organization decide what is really important and how best to achieve those ends.

o    Setting goals
o    Developing implementation strategies and timelines
o    Assigning accountability
o    Measuring outcomes

Group Dynamics: No one is an island. Let an expert help you gel as a team and learn to work with one another, even when the going gets rough.

o    Developing cohesive teams
o    Communicating effectively
o    Resolving conflict

Leadership: Identifying, developing and empowering individuals is the essence of leadership. Let an expert help you facilitate this process in the context of your organization.

o    Identifying values & vision
o    Understanding the leadership context
o    Developing leadership skills 

Hannibal B. Johnson, Esq.

Author, Attorney & Consultant

121 North Greenwood Avenue, Suite “G,” Tulsa, Oklahoma 74120
918.585.6770 (office); 918.406.8934 (cell);

Another Unarmed Black Man Killed by Police: San Diego Area

Monday, September 26, 2016

After the Presidential Debate: Disability and Diverse Communities Call In and Speak Out 11PM Eastern

Disability and Diverse Communities Speak Out about the Presidential Debate and How the Candidates will Impact Our Communities.
This is a current events show that will be looking at our analysis of the Clinton/Trump debates and how the candidates will impact our diverse communities.
One candidate has in the recent past talked disparagingly about persons of different ethnicities, religions, and disabilities.
What can we expect from each candidate?
We will be keeping in mind people with disabilities intersect with various communities and asking that people speak out.
We will set up our own poll.
Call (267)521-0167 on 9/26 11PM Eastern
With Yvonne Smith of Late Night with a Hero
Lauren Tenney of Talk with Tenney

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Police Murder of Keith Lamont Scott

Sign the Petition to Indict Officer Betty Shelby

Sign this petition: Justice for Terence Crutcher Hi! Too many Black lives are lost by the hands of police. I just took action with Color of Change calling on the arrest of the officer that shot and killed Terence Crutcher! Join me today.

The future of race in America: Michelle Alexander at TEDxColumbus

Another Black Man Killed by Police - Then Put on Paid Vacation - This Time - Tulsa

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Teen Rapes Toddler Gets Away With It teen rapes toddler, gets away with it.

Americas Greatest Fear - Income Inequality

By Nicole Sinclair - Original Article 

“The confused national discourse about our economy and future prosperity in this election year is our worst nightmare,” Harvard Professor Michael Porter writes. “There is almost a complete disconnect between the national discourse and the reality of what is causing our problems and what to do about them. This misunderstanding of facts and reality is dangerous, and the resulting divisions make an already challenging agenda for America even more daunting.”
In its just-released report on competitiveness, “Problems Unsolved and a Nation Divided: State of US Competitiveness,” Harvard Business School (HBS) found the US economy currently faces grave concerns. And the path to a solution—namely tax reform, immigration reform, and infrastructure investment—is being hindered by the current political climate.
Led by Porter, along with Professors Jan Rivkin and Mihir Desai, the report finds that since the launch of the US Competitiveness Project in 2011, concerns about weak job creation and stagnating incomes—particularly for the middle class—have not waned.

The severe 2009 recession is not the cause of our slow recovery

Porter explains while many pundits and politicians have focused on the Great Recession to diagnose America’s economic woes, this is misguided.
“Despite the hope of finding reasons for optimism, the ‘recovery’ remains slow and uneven, largely because America’s competitiveness problems took root long before the downturn,” Porter writes. “Since those problems remain unsolved, it should not be surprising that the average annual economic growth (1.6%) during the current recovery is slower than during any recovery since the late 1940s.”
The report adds that the wrong diagnosis, along with political paralysis in Washington, has meant that we have made no meaningful progress on any of the critical policy measures needed to address the nation’s underlying competitive weaknesses—which would restore economic growth and also the standard of living for the average citizen.
“America’s economic strategy defaulted to trusting that the Federal Reserve could solve our problems through monetary stimulus,” according to the report.

The key problem: Lack of shared prosperity

Porter says the key issue for America today is a lack of “shared prosperity,” as working and middle-class citizens are struggling.
“The lack of shared prosperity has rightly been a central issue in the 2016 campaign, but the diagnoses and proposed solutions are way off the mark,” the report points out.
As the middle class began to stagnate amid globalization and technological change, instead of increasing investments, the US made “unsustainable promises” to maintain the “illusion of shared prosperity,” the report notes. That included extending credit, expanding entitlements and increasing public-sector benefits.
The report points out that while politicians resort to blame—from immigrants to Wall Street to well-off Americans to other countries, big business and international trade—the solutions offered are “emotionally appealing but simplistic and deeply misguided.”
The HBS report focuses on solutions to make the US more competitive, allowing businesses to compete in domestic and international markets while improving wages and living standards of the average citizen.
“When these occur together, a nation prospers,” according to the report. “When one occurs without the other, a nation is not truly competitive and prosperity is not sustainable.”

Lackluster growth: A breakdown of metrics

The manifestation of competitiveness is productivity, Porter explains. A nation can only compete successfully and pay rising wages through high value of output per worker and per dollar of capital invested.
But productivity growth has been stuck below long-term levels, hitting negative territory in the last three quarters.

Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project
Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project

Wages have stagnated and business investment is also lagging given uncertain prospects.
As the report highlights, between the 1970s and 1990s, the US economy created private sector jobs at a long-run rate of 2% per year. But the rate, which began to decline around 2001, remains well below historical standards.
The report adds that not only has job growth slowed but most of the jobs created since 2000 have been in “local” industries such as health care, hospitality, and business services. Local jobs—as opposed to “traded jobs” that are exposed to international competitions such as machinery and IT equipment—pay lower average wages.
And slow job creation has led to low workforce participation, or the proportion of working age Americans in the active workforce, which peaked in 1997—well ahead of the Great Recession.
The report points out that while some observers have minimized declining workforce participation to retiring baby boomers, the bigger drivers are weak demand for low-skilled labor along with high incarceration rates of low-skilled men. Meanwhile, baby boomers are actually working longer than historical norms. While the official unemployment rate has improved to 4.9% for the entire population and 5.1% for the working population (ages 16-64), the report points out that if workforce participation stayed at the level seen in 1997, current levels of employment would imply a rate of 11.1% for the working population.
“Given the number of potential workers sitting on the sidelines, not in the official workforce but eligible to work, talk of a tightening labor market seems premature, especially for lower-skill and lower-income workers,” according to the report.
This helps set the stage for why wages and income levels for Americans have been under pressure, particularly for lower-income groups.

Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project
Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project

Meanwhile, the annual growth rate of quarterly private investment in intellectual property, structures and equipment remains weak, falling below historical rates, according to the report. For 2010-2016, the average quarterly investment by business as a percent of GDP was lower than it has been since the 1980s, hurting productivity further.
And all of this comes as GDP growth has remained tepid for a longer period than realized, on a downward trajectory since the 1960s with a significant step-down beginning around 2000.

Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project
Source: Harvard Business School US Competitiveness Project

Porter says the key barrier to progress is the political system.
“We’ve concluded after these five years of work on this that actually the political system and the political rhetoric is the problem at the core,” Porter said. “Because of the political gridlock we’ve not been able to make any progress on a lot of the basics.”
For more on the study, please see below:

U.S. Foreign Policy for Sale. How a Trump Election Threatens National Security

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Consumer Reports Article - The Rise of Medical identity Theft

The Rise of Medical Identity Theft
When thieves take your personal data to get prescription drugs, doctor care, or surgery, it can endanger your health and trash your finances
By Michelle Andrews
August 25, 2016

It began like an ordinary purse snatching. The credit card reader on the gas pump at her Houston neighborhood station wasn’t working, so Deborah Ford went inside to pay. By the time she returned to the car, her purse and wallet were gone. Ford filed a police report, canceled credit cards, and requested a new driver’s license and health insurance card. She checked with the bank several times to be sure nothing was funny, then forgot about it.
Two years later, the retired postal worker received an unsettling call from a bail bondsman; she was about to be arrested for acquiring more than 1,700 prescription opioid painkiller pills through area pharmacies.
“I had my mug shot taken, my fingerprints taken,” she says. Ford suffers from psoriasis, and she was so stressed that she broke out in the signature rash. “The policemen looked at my hands and said, ‘That’s what drug users’ hands look like.’ They just assumed I was guilty.”
Later, a judge dismissed the charges. “What saved me from going to jail was that I had filed that police report,” Ford says.
Turns out the thief altered Ford’s driver’s license and used that and her stolen health insurance card to go to doctors to seek prescription painkillers. Eventually, Ford says, a pharmacist became suspicious and called police.
“Boy, the thieves messed me up,” Ford says now of her lengthy and expensive ordeal, which began with the theft in 2008 and didn’t end until she got her name cleared of the arrest record last year. “Once they’ve got your identity, they’ve got you,” she says.
Inside Medical Identity Theft 
Ford’s story is but one glimpse of what medical identity theft can look like these days and why it has become a fast-growing strain of identity theft, with an estimated 2.3 million cases identified in 2014, a number that’s up almost 22 percent from the year before.

Your personal health insurance information, including your Social Security number, address, and email address, is valuable and vulnerable. When it gets into the wrong hands it can be used to steal expensive medical services—even surgeries—and prescription drugs or to procure medical devices or equipment such as wheelchairs.
Your medical identity is a commodity that can be hijacked and used to falsify insurance claims or to fraudulently acquire government benefits such as Medicare or Medicaid. Your personal medical information may also be sold on the black market, where it can be used to create entirely new medical identities based on your data.
And more often than you might imagine, people outright share their own medical coverage with an uninsured friend or family member in need of care, which is against the law. (More on that later.)
Because current consumer protections aren’t specifically designed for medical identity theft, experts warn, people need to understand that they may have to take on extensive work to clear up fraudulent bills. Some frustrated victims of medical identity theft simply give up and pay the bills themselves.
But there’s another, far more dangerous problem with medical identity theft: The thief’s own medical treatment, history, and diagnoses can get mixed up with your own electronic health records—potentially tainting and complicating your care for years to come. And that isn’t a hypothetical problem.
“About 20 percent of victims have told us that they got the wrong diagnosis or treatment, or that their care was delayed because there was confusion about what was true in their records due to the identity theft,” says Ann Patterson, a senior vice president of the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance (MIFA), a group of several dozen healthcare organizations and businesses working to reduce the crime and its negative effects.
Havoc in Victims' Lives
The long tail on medical identity theft can create havoc in victims’ lives. Take Anndorie Cromar’s experience. A pregnant woman reportedly used Cromar’s medical identity to pay for maternity care at a nearby hospital in Utah.
Soon, officials from child protective services assumed the infant—born with drugs in her system—was Cromar’s baby, and Cromar says the state, not realizing her medical identity had been hijacked, threatened to take her own four children away.
A DNA test she took helped to get her name off of the infant’s birth certificate, she says, but it took years to get her medical records corrected.
“That first stage was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, getting the call from CPS and having them say, ‘We are coming to take your kids,’ ” Cromar told Consumer Reports.  
An Insidious Kind of Fraud
Financial identity theft is nothing new: Perhaps you or someone you know has had to deal with undoing the mess that happens when someone illegally obtains your personal financial information and uses it to drain your bank account or rack up charges on credit cards fraudulently taken out in your name.
Setting credit accounts back to normal can be a hassle, but your money is, for the most part, protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act. You’re liable for only $50, at most, of unauthorized charges on a credit cardif you follow simple notification steps. And there are defined reimbursement rules if money is illegally withdrawn with a stolen ATM or debit card.
But when consumers become victims of medical identity fraud, stopping the damage and clearing up the bills is much more difficult and time consuming.
Deborah Ford had to quickly figure out what had been done in her name and try to undo the damage. She got on the phone and wrote letters and even tried to track down doctors the criminal had used. “All I have is my name, my integrity,” she says.
Investigators later told her that the thieves were savvy at knowing the system, always waiting 45 days between trips to the same pharmacy to avoid being identified by store video. “They were so slick about it,” Ford says. ‘To this day, I don’t know who they were. But they were slick, that’s for sure.”
Spotting It, Preventing it
Experts say detecting the fraud in the first place can be the most difficult part. “Medical identify theft and fraud is much harder to spot than financial fraud,” says Michelle De Mooy, acting director of the Privacy & Data Project at the nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology. “The bank calls you if they see charges in the system that raise an alarm. This kind of fraud is much easier to hide for a longer time.”
That’s why consumers need to be especially smart and careful about how and when they share their personal, medical, and insurance information.  
Here are a few basic ways you can safeguard your medical privacy and identity: Read those explanation of benefits letters as if they were bank statements. Carefully check all of the correspondence you receive from health insurers and healthcare providers for accuracy and for bills of service that you don’t recognize. Also review your credit reports for unfamiliar debts. Be stingy with your personal health information, Social Security card, and insurance cards. If someone asks for them, inquire whether it is really necessary.
And don’t post news of an upcoming surgery on Facebook or other social media outlets, Patterson recommends. You can’t really be sure who might see it. Consider, for example, that a criminal could scoop up the notice of your impending hip replacement and add it to other information he or she can easily find about you online, creating a more robust, more exploitable personal profile. As Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the ITRC, says, “Our rule of thumb is if it’s not something you’d want plastered on a billboard, don’t post it. Because essentially every single thing you post has that potential.”
All in the Family
Ronnie Bogle, a museum supervisor from San Jose, Calif., says that for more than a decade, he had no idea that his brother Gary had been stealing his identity to secure healthcare across several states.
Gary had a simple routine, Ronnie says: He would move to a new town or city, purchase a picture ID, then present the ID—along with Ronnie’s Social Security number—to get treatment, often at hospitals. Gary often claimed to be uninsured when he sought care. After he was treated, the bills were later sent to his given address, not Ronnie’s.
Ronnie told Consumer Reports that he only learned what Gary was up to in 2010 after applying for a new credit card and being turned down. He says his credit report contained listing after listing of unpaid debt—for his brother’s hospital visits and treatments over the years.
Eventually, Gary was arrested and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal impersonation in California. He’s facing more charges in Washington state for allegedly stealing his brother’s identity there.
It has taken two years for Ronnie Bogle to straighten out his credit and get his brother’s medical bills off his financial record. “He destroyed my credit history multiple times,” Ronnie says.
So-Called Friendly Fraud
Sometimes victims of medical identity theft know exactly how the crime occurred, but for others it remains a mystery.
The Ponemon Institute, a private cyber­security research firm, surveyed 1,005 people whose medical identity was “most likely” assumed by someone else. In the study, published last year, 10 percent of victims said their event was the result of a healthcare provider or insurer data breach, and an additional 12 percent believe they were tricked into giving up personal information via a fake email or phony website.
But 47 percent of respondents said that their identity theft was perpetrated by a relative or someone else they knew. Twenty-four percent said they had a situation like Bogle’s, where a relative stole their identity without their knowledge or consent. And surprisingly, an additional 23 percent of respondents said they willingly shared their credentials with someone they knew. That’s why the crime sometimes is referred to as “friendly fraud.”
Of those who said they shared healthcare credentials in that way, 91 percent reported that it was because the other person had no health insurance and 86 percent said it was because the other person couldn’t afford medical treatment. Sixty-five percent said it was done in an emergency.
Most of the people who voluntarily let someone they know use their medical information said they didn’t consider their actions wrong or criminal.
“They think of it as a Robin Hood crime—that no one is getting hurt and that if a family member is ill, they can help them,” says Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute.
“Those in our studies who did recognize it as a crime saw it as minor, like driving 5 miles above the speed limit. They don’t recognize the cost burden to insurance companies or healthcare providers, or that it ultimately ends up in the lap of consumers.”
Knowingly allowing a friend or relative to use your medical insurance is illegal, an act of fraud against insurance companies and health providers. And wrongfully sharing Medicare or Medicaid benefits is a crime against the federal government and state programs.
Pinpointing how much money fraud costs the medical industry each year is difficult. One estimate from 2012 put the total economic impact of medical identity theft in the U.S. at $41.3 billion.
Providers are working on new strategies to prevent it. They’re using software to detect fraud in billing, training staff and consumers to recognize warning signs and asking for photo IDs, explains James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. He says consumers can expect to see more extensive verification screening in the future, such as the use of fingerprints or palm prints. And soon Medicare cards will no longer bear Social Security numbers.
A Dramatic Rise in the Crime
As recently as six years ago, your medical information was kept in paper files, but now it has a more robust virtual life—in electronic health records and in details you share online. All of that can increase the likelihood that the wrong people could gain access to your data.
“Now there’s electronic data traveling through all kinds of devices and networks, and it’s much harder to lock it down,” Patterson says.
Big data breaches in the medical care industry have been on the rise over the past decade, including the hack of health insurer Anthem in 2015, when about 70 million of its records were reportedly stolen. And yet it’s still unclear how often medical identity fraud stems from those kinds of hacks, Patterson explains.
Most at Risk for Medical Identity Theft
What industry analysts do know is that some people are more likely to become targets, including people on Medicare. “That Social Security number on the card is a gateway, not just to medical fraud but to all kinds of fraud,” Patterson notes.
Older adults might also be more susceptible to scams because they tend to be less circumspect about giving up personal health information, she adds. Children’s health records are aggressively pursued by criminals, it turns out, because a minor’s credit report—which would list unpaid debts—isn’t usually seen by parents until a child is old enough to secure credit in his or her name.
Also particularly vulnerable to medical identity theft, says Pam Dixon, executive director of the nonprofit World Privacy Forum, are new motherssurgery patients, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes or serious illnesses such as cancer. That’s because the more interaction you have with the healthcare system, the more opportunity for records to be breached.
Anyone who casually puts a lot of personal information on social media sites and apps, such as millennials, might attract medical identity thieves, too. Criminals, Patterson explains, are “very good at aggregating social media information and pairing it with health and other data they’ve gotten, like dates of birth and addresses.”
The Chaos in Care
The effects of medical identity theft can be far-reaching, costing victims time, money, and aggravation. A 2016 report from Javelin Strategy & Research found that, on average, identity fraud victims spent only $55 out of pocket to resolve financial account problems in 2015.
But 65 percent of the medical identity theft victims surveyed by Ponemon said they spent an average of $13,500 to pay the healthcare bills run up in their name, to recover their health insurance, and to pay lawyer’s fees, among other things. Ponemon also found that it took an average of more than three months for victims to even detect the fraud and more than 200 hours to undo the mess.
Mary Levine of Lake Charles, Louisiana, says she has been logging time on the telephone with the police, hospitals, doctors, and Medicaid almost every day since she learned in mid-June that someone had racked up some $20,000 in fraudulent medical bills using her identity. Although Levine is working closely with the nonprofit ITRC and her local sheriff's department, the bills continue to arrive, and her worries are mounting.
"I keep telling the hospital that I've never been there," says Levine. "I've been calling nonstop. They just say they have not clarified anything at all and they'll call me whenever they make a decision."
There’s much more to do to safeguard consumers from medical identity theft, experts say, including creating a defined process for resolving medical and financial problems.
But, says Orly Avitzur, M.D., M.B.A., Consumer Reports’ medical director, one thing that healthcare experts don’t want is to completely lock up our medical data. “It’s important for doctors to be able to share your health needs, diagnoses, and treatment information with each other, and to do so quickly in the event of an emergency,” she says.
Be Ever-Vigilant
Deborah Ford’s encounter with medical identity theft may have been extreme, but the way she handled it was impressive. Once she found out about the fraud, she got on it—alerting every entity involved— and stayed on it until it was over.
“They never used my credit card or checking account; I checked. But lo and behold, they did more than that. They got what they wanted—my insurance information,” she says.
Still, it cost her $1,500 in fees and took five more years to expunge the drug arrest. On that day, Ford says, “I got my name back.”