Saturday, July 7, 2007

Do patients have to give Social Security Numbers to Medical Providers?

It was a sunny Saturday morning and in comes our last patient of the day. The office was cleared out and I thought this was going to be a quick in and out patient. I handed the patient his "new" patient registration forms and went back to my desk hoping to complete my confirmation phone calls so I could leave the office on time.

A few minutes later the patient came to my desk and gave me the completed patient registration form. I quickly scanned through it and saw that the social security number was missing. Sir, can I get your Social Security Number. He explained politely that he does not give it out. I let the patient know that I appreciated his reasons for not wanting to supply this # but explained that the provider has policies to not treat patients without the social security number.

I went to the doctor and notified him of the situation. The next hour I went back and forth between the doctor and the patient explaining each others side. Finally, the doctor came from his room and explained that he has the right to deny services for the patient not supplying the social security number.

In the end the patient gave the social, the provider treated the patient and everyone was happy but the question that many of my colleagues asked me is" Does the provider have the right to deny services for a patient who does not want to give his social security number?"

The answer is Yes.

Patient's privacy rights can be found at and it clearly indicates the patient has the right to not give their social security number for a medical office visit however the provider can choose to deny services.

Our only reason for gathering our patients social security number is if the patient defaults on their bill and must be sent to an outside collection agency they can find the patient and collect.

The patient eventually understood we weren't going to resell his information to anyone. And after spending 1 hour working with me and the provider he trusted that we would not only treat his body and his patient medical records with respect.

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