"Red Flags" Rule Enforcement Delayed

July 6, 2009
Michael Sheehan

In an effort to stem the growing tide of identity theft, Congress passed a law last year that requires creditors to put procedures in place to pinpoint "red flags" that could signal that a transaction might be fraudulent. Under the law, creditors would have to have procedures in writing to identify, detect, and respond to those red flags. The problem, according to many healthcare providers, is that the Federal Trade Commission considers doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals as creditors under the law.

Primarily, as a result of objections from a number of provider groups, including the American Medical Association, the FTC has postponed enforcement of the rules twice. The regulations were originally scheduled to go into effect last November 1, but that date was pushed back to May 1, and recently has been postponed again until August 1. The AMA argues that lumping doctors under a law that was intended to regulate banks and credit card companies is wrong.

The AMA's stance is that the FTC's interpretation of who is a creditor under the law is far too broad and not what Congress intended. In addition, the association maintains that, under the rules, a doctor who doesn't collect his or her full fee at the time of service is a creditor, a definition that would include anyone-such as a plumber or an electrician-who bills a customer after providing a service. That is clearly not the intent of the law, according to the AMA.