Data Breach: How Much Will One Cost You?

David Harlow

Posted 3/06/12 on Health Blawg

MP900440914The going rate for a compromised medical record seems to be $1000 (well, at least that’s the asking price) as seen in papers filed in the eleven class action lawsuits against Sutter Health following the theft of a desktop computer last fall.  The computer contained unencrypted protected health information on about 4.24 million members.  The eleven class action suits are likely to be consolidated for ease of handling by the courts.

For an outfit whose most recently reported year-end financials show just under $900 million in income on just over $9 billion in revenue, a $4.24 billion claim certainly qualifies as a big deal.  The data breach claims against Sutter Health were filed last year following its self-reporting of the computer theft, and are in the news again due to the potential consolidation.

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Dipping the Drivers License into EMTALA’s Can of Worms

Sean Scorvo, MD

Sean ScorvoPlease allow me the driest lead-in sentence imaginable for an article: EMTALA (the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) is part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1986.  I apologize for that…I suppose I should explain the reasoning for my milquetoast moment.

The law’s goal was to prevent the day’s common “wallet biopsy” practice wherein one of the first questions asked upon a person’s Emergency Department arrival, or an ambulance’s report  was “do you” or “does the patient” have insurance?.  If the person didn’t have insurance, or if they just couldn’t prove it, the person was frequently advised to go to another hospital.  While this saved the hospital money, the delay in treatment sometimes cost people their lives or exacerbated the condition they were seeking care for.  Thus, the short story is, EMTALA saves lives.  However, things are never quite so simple as they seem and, as you might have guessed, where there is a short story, a long story and a proverbial Can of Worms isn’t far behind.

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HealthNet and HIPAA Again…So, Does HIPAA Work?

David Harlow

First published 3/15/11 on HealthBlawg

HealthNet either lost, or had stolen from it, computer hard drives with PHI of 1.9 million subscribers that had been in a California facility.  This latest HealthNet data security breach, which may have included names, Social Security numbers, addresses, health information and financial information comes a little over a year after a widely-reported data security breach by HealthNet in Connecticut which resulted in the first state Attorney General action under the HIPAA amendments contained in the HITECH Act.  HealthNet is notifying affected individuals and is offering two years of no-cost credit monitoring and fraud resolution services, and credit restoration and identify theft insurance as needed.

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