Last week, the Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, sued Health Net of Connecticut for a data breach and their subsequent handling of the incident.
This week, the Connecticut Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, sued Health Net of Connecticut for a data breach and their subsequent handling of the incident. As he notes, this lawsuit is historic, in that it is the very first enforcement action under HIPAA since the law was extended and enhanced with the HITECH (Healthcare Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act.
“Sadly, this lawsuit is historic — involving an unparalleled health care privacy breach and an unprecedented state enforcement of HIPAA,” Blumenthal said. “Protected private medical records and financial information on almost a half million Health Net enrollees in Connecticut were exposed for at least six months — most likely by thieves — before Health Net notified appropriate authorities and consumers. These missing medical records included some of the most personal, intimate patient information — exposing individuals to grave embarrassment and emotional distress, as well as financial harm and identity theft. The staggering scope of the data loss, and deliberate delay in disclosure, are legally actionable and ethically unacceptable. Even more alarming than the breach, Health Net downplayed and dismissed the danger to patients and consumers. Failing to protect patient privacy blatantly violates federal law and Health Net’s public trust. We are seeking a preliminary order to protect patients and consumers, and will fight for civil penalties.”
It is likely this while this is a first, that it is the beginning of a new era for healthcare organizations and the expectation that they will take the privacy obligations of their patients seriously. While unfortunate, this situation illustrates that some healthcare organizations require stronger motivation to both protect patient information as well as to follow good sense and legal requirements to promptly notify individuals if there has been a breach of their information that may put them at risk.
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