California settles with Anthem Blue Cross over data breach (updated)

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a settlement with one of California’s largest health insurers over allegations the company failed to protect the personal information of its members.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court today along with the settlement, alleges that Blue Cross of California, which does business under the trade name Anthem Blue Cross, printed Social Security numbers on letters mailed to more than 33,000 of its Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D subscribers in April 2011 and had a second mailing breach between December 2011 and March 2012. The complaint states that Anthem’s conduct violated a state law that restricts the disclosure of Social Security numbers.

“Our office is committed to protecting the privacy of Californians,” said Attorney General Harris. “This settlement requires the company to make significant improvements to its data security procedures to ensure this type of error does not happen again.”

After the incident, Anthem sent a letter to all affected members whose Social Security numbers were visible through the mailed envelope, notifying them of the breach and offering each a year of free credit monitoring services.

The settlement also requires Anthem to implement new technical safeguards for its data management system, restrict employee access to members’ Social Security numbers and provide enhanced data security training for all of its associates.

The company must also pay $150,000 to settle the claim. The complaint and settlement reflect Attorney General Harris’ continued efforts to protect Californians’ privacy particularly where thousands of consumers can have their personal information released with a mere push of a button.

Source: Attorney General Kamala Harris

Curiously, I don’t see this breach listed on HHS’s breach tool, and this seems to be the first we’re hearing about it in the media. If the problem went on for a year but no later than March 2012, I would have expected to see it on HHS’s list by now.

[Note:  see Comments below. There were two breaches, and this post has been edited to reflect that correction. The first breach was reported previously in the media; the second wasn’t.  I can’t find either on HHS’s breach tool.]

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4 comments to “California settles with Anthem Blue Cross over data breach (updated)”

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  1. Anonymous - October 3, 2012

    Are we sure it’s not the Anthem Blue Cross breach that was reported on Phiprivacy on May 13, 2011?

    Sections 5 and 6 in the Complaint pdf. appear to be referring to two separate incidents or one incident and a total number of affected Californians for all incidents between December 2011 and March 2012.

    • Anonymous - October 3, 2012

      Looking at it some more, I think you’re right. Good catch on your part. The first breach referred to in the complaint was on this blog in May 2011, although I don’t see it listed on HHS’s breach tool. I don’t see the second breach referred to in the complaint on either this blog or HHS’s breach tool, do you?

      • Anonymous - October 4, 2012

        I’ve got zilch for the second breach. It’s still unclear if it was a single breach that lasted three months or a collection of incidents.

        • Anonymous - October 4, 2012

          My impression is that any notice sent out during that time period violated the no-SSN law.

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