My adult daughter has had the stomach flu for two days. Nothing that requires medical intervention, but she had to get a doctor’s permission to miss work. Her boss suggested that she go down the street to the local pharmacy. Thinking this meant that the pharmacy had a nurse practitioner on staff, we went. No such luck. The pharmacist asked my daughter a few questions and handed her a box of medicine. Sinus medicine, clearly the best treatment for vomiting and diarrhea. I rolled my eyes, put the pills on the nearest shelf and led my sick girl out of there.

We called a few places, and were referred to an urgent care clinic in the next town over: Hope Urgent Care. Getting smarter, we called to see if they would be able to see her, and how much a walk-in visit would cost for an uninsured patient. Anxious to get done before 12 inches of snow fell on the road home, we headed over to Hope Urgent Care. My daughter signed in and we waited about 30 minutes before she was called up to fill out some paperwork. The young woman behind the counter asked Samantha for her driver’s license. She left it at home, but had cash in her pocket to pay for her treatment. No, said the receptionist, you can’t be treated without photo ID. My daughter, who really just needed to lie down after puking for two days, was on the verge of crying. Please, I don’t want to lose my job, she said. The receptionist, seeing her opportunity to wield power, adamantly refused. It is a state law, she said through gritted teeth, that all patients must provide photo ID. Yes, even if they are paying cash for services rendered.

Feeling shamed and vaguely criminal for attempting such a mad thing as seeing a doctor without a photo ID, we left. After stopping to pick up her purse, we went to another clinic, where she was treated respectfully.

I haven’t done an exhaustive search yet, but I think she was referring to the Red Flags Rule, a Federal Trade Commission law. It aims to prevent medical identity theft, which would involve seeking medical care using someone else’s identity and insurance information. It would indeed apply to someone without insurance, if the provider was extending credit.

On the other hand, health care providers who require payment before or at the time of service are not creditors under the Red Flags Rule. In addition, if you accept only direct payment from Medicaid or similar programs where the patient has no responsibility for the fees, you are not a creditor. Simply accepting credit cards as a form of payment at the time of service does not make you a creditor under the Rule.

Anyone out there have any information about this? I’m feeling like this is a privacy violation. Is there any reason that someone paying cash at the time of service should be required by law to provide photo ID? There is no risk to the provider, the government or other citizens. When you pay cash to be treated, it is a straightforward business transaction, not an opportunity for government regulation. End of rant. If you live in mid-Michigan, don’t go to Hope Urgent Care. The staff is rude. Pass it on.

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