In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills.
Some hospitals are peering into patients' credit reports, which contain information on people's lines of credit, debts and payment histories. Other hospitals are contracting with outside services that predict a patient's income and whether he or she is likely to walk away from a medical bill. Hospitals often use these services when patients are uninsured or have big out-of-pocket costs despite having health insurance.
Hospitals say the practice helps them identify which patients to pursue actively for payment because they can afford to pay. They say it also allows them to figure out more quickly which patients are eligible for charity care or assistance programs.
Administrators also argue that these credit checks can help them minimize losses. In 2006, nearly 5,000 community hospitals provided uncompensated care costing $31.2 billion, the vast majority of it charity care or unpaid patient bills, according to the American Hospital Association.
Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay.
Hospitals say that doesn't happen. Hospitals often ask patients for permission to access their financial records, but such authorization is sometimes buried in the fine print. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs.
"It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt. Consumers' credit reports are maintained at the three major credit bureaus, which determine credit-worthiness using criteria such as the well-known FICO score. But while a snapshot of how much credit you have available and your debt-payment history might help predict the likelihood of your repaying, say, a car loan, it's less reliable when it comes to medical-bill payments.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Under an agreement announced on Wednesday the nation's major credit reporting companies will make on-line credit reports accessible to blind people's audio software. The program, scheduled to take effect by the end of the year, was negotiated by the American Council of the Blind, its California affiliate and the three largest credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The companies now make credit reports available on a single Web site, www.annualcreditreport.com. Under the agreement, at a blind customer's request, his or her credit report will carry a code that will enable the customer's computer to read the report aloud. Other provisions require the reports to be available in large print or in Braille. Lucy Greco, a specialist in assistive technology for the disabled, was one of three blind individuals taking part in the case, along with the advocacy organizations. She said the agreement would allow her to examine her credit report without sharing the information with others.
"I'm so fed up in my life with having to get someone to read things to me," Greco said, noting that such dependence also makes the blind vulnerable to fraud. "Now I can go online, get my credit report and read it ... and I can do it independently, and other people can do the same thing."
Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind, said the agreement "will help people with visual impairments fight identity theft by independently monitoring and reviewing their credit reports." In a separate case, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Wednesday that the Social Security Administration must accommodate the needs of blind recipients of benefits when announcing decisions that affect them.
Under the Social Security Act, the agency sends certified letters, makes follow-up phone calls, or takes other steps to communicate decisions to those who are receiving benefits solely because of their blindness, but does not accommodate visually impaired people who get Social Security because of their age or other reasons.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the agency is also covered by an anti-discrimination law that requires the federal government to provide access to disabled people in all federally funded programs, including audio recordings, Braille and other aids for the blind.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Stealing someone’s personal identification information with motive to make a fraud is serious crime known as Identity theft. It’s often used to obtain a service or credit account of some time. All over the world people and businesses taking Identity theft protection measures and there are several different methods of identity protection that a person can employ, and it all depends on what the risks are. If you make use of computer frequently for business dealings, it is important to protect your computer against the infringement of your personal information. If you use your information to get school loans and things of that nature, identity theft protection can be just as simple as getting identity theft insurance and making sure that the information that you give anybody else is always protected.
Make use of secure and trusted websites: It may be the one of many ways that you can implement identity theft protection for yourself. Trusting every website is wrong but there are many who are protected and encrypted. Those who do have such protection are usually very adamant about letting their customers know, because they will be more likely to use their services in the first place. Secure websites encrypt your personal and financial information so that even the most skilled of hackers won't be able to intercept the information on its way to the merchant it was intended for. If the website you’re using is not securely encrypted you will be begging for keeping personal information private.
Make proper security provisions for your computer: Keeping your computer security up to date is just one more thing that you can do to help make sure that you are exercising good identity theft protection measures. Viruses and spyware programs are known to capture your personal information or leave it susceptible to miscreants, something that nobody should ever be okay with.
Criminals use personal information for a variety of things, from opening new accounts on your credit to getting utilities turned on in your name to opening bank accounts and other things. Identity theft protection software has a way of encoding all of the information on the computer so that nobody else will ever be able to access it.
Identity theft protection is at hike nowadays for so many people. While you may not feel that your computer security is top priority, protection of your identity theft is just one reason to keep your computer security up to date. Identity theft protection is your job; very few other people in the world really care who has access to your personal information except you-and it is your job to take care of it as much as possible. Computer software, virus protection, and smart use are just a few ways of so many that you can help to keep your identity under wraps and keep that unthinkable from happening to you. All these were the simple tips by following which you may have a proper protection against Identity theft.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Major credit report bureaus which are three and we all aware of it may have minor different formats, but all contain similar facts. Mainly your basic identifying information is: name, address, Social Security number. Another section includes "trade lines", a listing of your credit accounts, be they credit cards, car loans or mortgages, along with the credit limit, balance and payment history of each. The reports also show public records and collection, which include any actions taken against you in court and any overdue debts taken over by collection agencies. Check out all these sections carefully for accuracy.
If you find any errors, you might have the right to dispute them, free of cost, by phone, mail or e-mail, with the credit bureaus. If the mistake occurs on all three reports, you must contact all three agencies.
When you point out the problem, the credit reporting agency will open an investigation and contact the credit card company or other lender that provided the statements you dispute. The source must then check its records to verify the information and respond to the credit agency within 30 days about whether they can test item is correct or not.
If you dispute an item and the investigation finds against your claim, there's no appeal, so the information will remain, but you can write out a consumer statement and send it to each of the credit bureaus, which will add it to your credit reports. This will ensure that your side of the story is available to potential lenders. If, on the other hand, the lender agrees with your correction, the Federal Trade Commission requires the lender to amend the error at all the bureaus to which a reports. However, you should check all the reports to make sure all the fixes have been made correctly.
If a credit card you never applied for appears on your report, you may be the victim of identity theft. Contact the fraud department of one of the credit bureaus and request a fraud alert on your credit reports. You have to call only one bureau it will notify the other two. This tells lenders to contact you before issuing new credit or making changes, such as switching mailing addresses, to your current accounts.
Monday, April 14, 2008
FICO score is a credit score developed by Fair Isaac & Co. Credit scoring is a method of determining the likelihood that credit users will pay their bills. Scoring has become widely accepted by lenders as a reliable means of credit evaluation. A credit score attempts to condense a borrower's credit history into a single number. The score you will receive will always fall between 300 and 850, with the higher the score, the better. Lenders who are looking at FICO scores are determining their lending risk. So, in order to make yourself attractive to financial institutions you hope to borrow money from, you need to raise your FICO score as high as you can. Here
are few steps to follow:
Just check your credit report! Determine how much improvement you need to make your score attractive to prospective lenders.
If you have overdue accounts, get them paid and keep them current. The longer you keep all your debt current, the better it will look on your credit history. This will lead to a better FICO score.
Settle any accounts that have gone to collections. This will help your score in the future, if not immediately.
Keep balances on any kind of credit card or “revolving credit” low. When you have high balances, they can be a huge detriment to your FICO score.
Pay off debt instead of moving it from one place to another. Paying off the debt, or lowering the amount owed, will increase your score.
Open new credit accounts responsibly and pay them off each month. Showing a good payment history over time will raise your FICO score.
Keep open accounts you already have. Closing current accounts will not help your FICO score, but keeping them paid on time will.
Check your credit report at least once a year, to determine how well you are doing at improving your FICO score and to make sure it is not actually getting lower.
Create a budget, including a payment schedule of all your debt, and stick to it.
All these steps are practically done and don’t involve any kind of risk.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
All people suffering from financial problems considers credit counseling as an option, they often wonder how to choose best credit counseling company from a vast list that are popping up left and right these days. It’s really hard to answer this dilemma but there are some things that you can look for in a credit counseling company that might make the decision a little easier.
Firstly we consider whether it’s going to cost you anything to aim for credit counseling. If you are having financial difficulties in the first place, then chances are that you don’t really have the expendable cash to pay for the credit counseling you so desperately need. In this instance, rest assured that there are reputable, non-profit, credit counseling companies that will assist you for free. On the other hand, if you are of the philosophy that you get what you pay for, then you may want to consider a fee based credit counseling company.
Your best chance, when deciding which credit counseling company to select at time of need and to find one that will provide you with a custom fit. Every situation, requiring credit counseling, is unique. If you are subjected to a cookie cutter financial plan when your personal situation is much more complex than the average consumer, you may come up short and rule out credit counseling as an option.
Most importantly, you don’t want to end up in the same condition you are in now, after you have gone through credit counseling. You want to make sure that the credit counseling company that you choose is going to provide you best educational services. It isn’t going to do you any good to get out of debt if the credit counseling doesn’t teach you how to manage your money so that you don’t come knocking on debt’s door again.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Usually it takes 7-10 to erase the past credit report issues but making some efforts you can rebuild your credit report before all negative information is set to expire. I have searched five easy steps to rebuild your credit report. Just check them below:
Step 1: Go through the Damage
Firstly get a current coy of your free credit score report to fix past mistakes. Stop scaring, got ahead and take the plunge order all three credit reports with all 3 credit scores. Online ordering of your credit report is actually easy and secure. Contrary to popular belief ordering your own credit report does not affect your credit score.
Step 2: Review the expiration dates
The current law states that negative information will stay on your credit report for 7-10 years from collection date. The expiration date will vary depending on the type of collection. When you pay off a collection that does not mean it will be removed from your report.
Examine your report and determine when each collection is set to expire. Once these collections are set to expire you will see major improvement to your score.
Step 3: Discord errors
If you find inaccurate information such as, fraudulent information, collections that expired still reporting, you have the right to dispute. You will have to dispute each of the 3 credit bureaus separately, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.Once you the bureaus have received your dispute they have 30 days to determine whether they will update information requested.
Don't dispute good credit on your report, accurate information cannot be removed from your credit report and is a waste of time. Disputing accurate information could harm your credit.
Step 4: Hike up positive credit
Now that you have disputed information that is not correct and have hopefully got it removed or update you can begin to add positive credit to your report. The quickest way to do this is to get an Orchard bank secured credit card. This credit card is designed to rebuild credit even for people that just got out of a bankruptcy. Make sure you use this card responsibly. Also avoid going applying for to lots of credit, you really need a couple of secured credit cards to start establishing good credit.
Step 5: Observe your progress
It is very simple to monitor your progress of increasing your creditworthiness these days with credit report monitoring services. You can sign up for credit reporting monitoring services that will allow you to monitor your credit score, get key changes e-mailed to you, along with access to your credit report. Your credit score will improve over time as you add positive information to your report.
Following all these above mentioned steps one by one may help rebuild credit report easily and safely.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Seeing your free credit report online for the first time may seems to be beneficial. Unfortunately, you have to give out your credit card details in order to get these reports, which may make you feel pretty afraid. Moreover, if you already receive a free report, you might think if that is good enough-if it is really necessary for you to also sign up for a free credit report online. When you really look at these websites, you will feel that there are advantages of seeing your free credit report online. The advantages of seeing your free credit report online include being able to see your credit report whenever you wish. You can view it just before you go to bed and when you wake up to see how your score has improved. One more benefit of seeing your free credit report online is that you don't have to wait for your annual report to come at mailing address. This is important if you are planning to repair your credit rating-and want periodic updates to see if the steps you are taking will work.
Some people are put off by having to enter their credit card details. But with these online companies, you know that your details will be entered and processed through a private server. This lets you know that your details are in the secure hands. There are many advantages of seeing your free credit report online and the above examples are just a few reasons why many people are using the online service of checking their free credit reports online.
Several Disadvantages also seems to occur same like advantages of seeing credit report online. The disadvantages of seeing your free credit report online include the fact that company would charge few dollars if you view credit report. So you are in effect paying to view something that is yours, which often does not seem fair. Other disadvantages of seeing your free credit report online include the simple fact that you get an annual credit report anyway. The annual report is free of cost, too, so why bother filling out forms and surveys and giving out sensitive information to obtain a "free" credit report that essentially gives you the same information as your annual one?
This is a big disadvantage of seeing your free credit report online; of course, the companies will try to trap that by offering you other inducement, but some of them are not worth the price. One more disadvantages of seeing your free credit report online is the use of a credit card to even see your credit report. We all understand that this is the best way to verify yourself and to confirm that you are who you say you are. But there must be other ways to become a member without the use of a credit card. Maybe they can think about these for the future.
When deciding if you want to view your credit report online, you must check out the Pros and Cons of seeing your free credit report online. You have to keep in mind that it is only free for 30 days; after that, you would be charged to use the website. If you are not serious about your credit score, then you won't need this service; and it will probably be a bigger hassle than it is worth. Instead you will be better off with your annual report that you receive from a credit-reporting agency. At least you won’t have to fill out lengthy forms and enter into contracts to obtain it.
Friday, April 4, 2008
This week South Carolina became the 40th state to offer consumers some protection for their financial information when Gov. Mark Sanford signed an identity theft bill into law.
State Rep. Kristopher R. Crawford, R-Florence said “We may be one of the last, but we have one of the best laws anywhere”. According to consumer union nineteen people become victims of identity theft every minute in the United States.
The state’s new law allows consumers to place a freeze on their credit reports free of cost, and they can remove or temporarily lift it if needed, so potential thieves don’t have access to that data.
Crawford said “We are one of only two states where citizens don’t have to pay to freeze their credit reports — us and Indiana — and that is the heart of the deal because people need to be able to do it”.
Consumers can start freezing their credit reports from Jan. 1.
The law is a good step forward, especially for vulnerable senior citizens on fixed incomes who frequently fall prey to identity thieves, said Teresa Arnold, legislative director for AARP South Carolina, which fought for the legislation.
“People now have their own tool, and it’s a very strong tool,” she said. “And they don’t have to pay for it.”
Some states require fees as high as $10 for each of the three credit reporting agencies to freeze consumers’ reports and similar fees to remove those freezes, she said.
Among other provisions, the law also gives consumers the power to have inaccurate information removed from their credit reports, and to be notified when their security has been breached. It also provides protection for Social Security numbers by regulating how they can be posted or communicated.
The law also empowers consumers to take legal action in state court against companies that fail to remove erroneous information from their credit reports told by Crawford, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
What you will do in case you get your credit report and there are some negative marks printed on it that you were not involved in or were not part of? This error situation happens in many people’s credit report and can happen with your credit report as well. So what will you do if you find some errors in your credit report?
No doubt, it will not be easy to remove these errors from your credit report. But always there are some ways you can follow to solve a difficult problem even. So here some steps to follow to get the information corrected in your credit report:
When you get some error in your credit report, the first step you have to follow is contacting the credit reporting agency that issued this report in written. In your letter to the credit reporting company, you should attach the relevant documents that show that the information is incorrect. With this you should include information like your name, address, explanation of error situation at hand and why you are reporting the errors in your credit report copy. You should also mention the entries that need to be deleted or edited from your credit report.
Now send this letter to the respective credit reporting company via certified mail and keep a copy of your letter at you in case there are some disputes at their end. When your credit reporting company gets the dispute letter from you, they will start their investigation if they think the dispute can be true or there is some seriousness in it. Normally they start investigation within 30 days of receiving the dispute letter. In their investigation, report providing company will send all the documents and disputes to the company in question in order for the company to do their own investigation and find out why they have placed a particular entry in to that credit report. When that company or organization completes their investigation, they will send their statements about the disputes if they were true or not and support their statements with the evidence of their own.
In case there was some error in credit report, that company will inform all of the credit reporting agencies about this error and get it corrected. Once all this process is completed, your reporting company will send you a new copy of free credit report with all of errors removed from the report.