In written remarks, Government Accountability Office Health Care Director Kathleen King told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health that CMS has not followed past recommendations to curb health care fraud, such as removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards and integrating predictive analytics into existing health information technology systems. As a result, fraudulent activity surrounding federal health programs -- such as upcoding, physician kickbacks and identification theft -- continues to proliferate, King wrote. Modern Healthcare.
A federal probe has been launched to determine whether an employee of an ambulance billing services firm hired by the Los Angeles Fire Department illegally obtained confidential personal data on hundreds of patients who rode in LAFD ambulances in recent months, according to Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter. LAFD is notifying patients about the possible data breach and urging them to contact the IRS to check if fraudulent tax returns have been filed in their names. Los Angeles Times et al.
The Department of Public Health has fined Prime Healthcare Services $95,000 for violating patient confidentiality by disclosing private medical data to journalists and hospital workers. Prime says it is appealing the state's findings and penalties. Los Angeles Times, California Watch.
The William S. Hart Union High School District plans to expand a first-of-its-kind program that allows Santa Clarita parents to track the results of random drug tests given to their children. More than 2,000 -- or 10% of -- junior high and high school students currently participate in the no-cost program, and officials would like to increase participation by 3% annually. Los Angeles Times, AP/Sacramento Bee.
On Monday, two GOP leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee -- Reps. Wally Herger and Sam Johnson -- issued a statement calling on HHS to help protect the personal data of Medicare beneficiaries by removing Social Security numbers from Medicare ID cards. According to the statement, a recent HHS Office of Inspector General report that highlights problems with the agency's response to Medicare identity theft should serve as a "wakeup call" for HHS to take action. The Hill's "Healthwatch."
The California Board of Pharmacy has opened a probe into allegations that CVS Caremark failed to obtain patient consent before refilling prescriptions and submitting insurance claims. HHS' Office of Inspector General also is investigating the claims. Los Angeles Times.
Some medical researchers have expressed concern that a recent shift in Social Security Administration policy to restrict public disclosure of its death records is beginning to negatively affect a range of research efforts. Last year, the agency concluded that it had violated a 1983 law by releasing state death records and removed four million death records from a public file. New York Times.
Anthem Blue Cross will pay $150,000 and change its procedures to settle allegations that it compromised personal data for 33,756 members. State officials say the company revealed some members' Social Security numbers. Healthcare IT News et al.
This week, Cal eConnect -- which is transitioning out of overseeing California's health data exchange -- announced that several laptops containing member contact information were stolen this summer. Officials said they do not believe the breach poses serious risks, but they advised affected individuals to change their email passwords. Modern Healthcare.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and other agency officials knew about the monitoring of emails from scientists who warned congressional staffers that FDA-approved medical devices might pose risks to patients, according to FDA officials and a letter the agency sent to Senate investigators. Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, Stanford School of Medicine officials said they are alerting 2,500 patients about the recent theft of a password-protected computer that might have contained patient names, health records and some Social Security numbers. University officials said tracking software installed on the computer does not indicate that the patient information has been accessed. San Jose Mercury News.
On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley sent a letter asking FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to explain why the agency did not tell its contractor Quality Associates that the 80,000 pages of communications it posted online contained sensitive and personally identifiable data. FDA hired the contractor to print and disseminate documents related to the agency's surveillance of employee emails. Washington Post.
On Monday, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Chris Van Hollen asked federal health officials to launch an investigation into FDA's monitoring of personal emails sent by current and former FDA scientists and staff. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Grassley asked the agency to release a copy of the memo authorizing the monitoring initiative and to identify its author. In a separate letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Van Hollen urged HHS to determine whether the program violated federal employee protections and whistleblower laws. New York Times et al.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would limit a California law that allows patients to take legal action against a health care provider if their health records are released without their permission. Healthcare IT News.
Surefile Filing Systems in Indio alleges that Kaiser Permanente owes it $80,000 for cataloging and storing patient data. The vendor says it has more than one million unencrypted Kaiser patient records on servers. However, Diana Halper, a spokesperson for Kaiser's Southern California region, said that Surefile is no longer in possession of clinical data and that the vendor is "falsely claiming continued possession of medical information as leverage to extract an unearned and unfair settlement from a routine business matter that was properly resolved long ago." San Francisco Business Times.