Medco coding change exposes prescription benefit data

They probably wished it was an April’s Fool joke, but it wasn’t.  On April 1, United Healthcare learned that their business associate, Medco, had suffered a computer system error that exposed members’ prescription benefit messages on the Medco web site to other members.

In a letter dated May 24 to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, United Healthcare (a United Health Group Company) reported that they were told that they were one of 25 Medco clients affected by the breach, and that the breach had affected 705 United Health members nationwide.

An investigation of the problem revealed that when Medco changed some code on their website on March 31, the exposure problem occurred. It was detected the next day by two United Health employees.  According to United Health’s letter, the error related to “authentication tools used by the website to validate the user and cache the web session.”

Medco notified affected individuals and offered them free credit monitoring services, even though no financial information were involved.  Medco’s letter states that the exposure problem occurred between April 1 and April 9 and may have included information such as the individuals’ name, “a reference to your diabetes or cardiovascular condition,” names of medications, or date of birth.  No SSN or financial information was exposed.

I’m surprised that we haven’t seen this breach reported on HHS’s web site.   Was it not reported because of some “risk of harm” assessment or for some other reason?  Curious…

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2 comments to “Medco coding change exposes prescription benefit data”

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  1. Anonymous - October 12, 2010

    Curious indeed. Credit monitoring services were provided because…someone could gather personal information about someone by posing as hir simply because they have a name and these prescription benefits messages?

    • Anonymous - October 12, 2010

      Maybe they wanted people to believe that they were being concerned/responsive/repentant. PR?

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