Stolen hard drive could affect 582 Ohioans enrolled in United Healthcare Medicare plans – but they're just finding out more than 3 months later

Tim Tresslar reports:

United Healthcare said Tuesday a hard drive containing information on 582 Ohioans who are members of its Medicare plans has been stolen from a vendor.The Minnetonka, Minn.-based company said it is notifying the affected members by mail. United HealthCare’s commercial health plans are not affected.

The hard drive belonged to Futurity First Insurance Group, a provider of sales and marketing services for the United Healthcare Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D prescription drug, Evercare and Medicare Supplement plans, a news release states.

Futurity First sent the hard drive to a vendor for repair and it was stolen on or about June 28. The vendor told Futurity about the theft on Aug. 12.

Nearly a month later, on Sept. 14, Futurity told United Healthcare about the stolen hard drive.

The drive included member names, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, the birth dates and private health information, United Healthcare said.

The insurer said it is offering affected members one year with Debix, an identity protection service, for free.

Source: Dayton Daily News

Okay, those delays are too long. The unnamed vendor didn’t report the theft for a month and a half? And then Futurity didn’t report it to UHC for another month? That it took UHC a month to disclose the breach neither surprises nor upsets me, as I don’t think one month is unreasonable, even though some states have much stricter requirements. But the totality of the situation – that personal data that could be used for ID theft were stolen on June 28 and individuals have not yet received notification/warning three and a half months later – that is too much.

What makes this is even more aggravating, in my opinion, is that this drive was not storing information used for treatment – it was for marketing/sales purposes. While marketing is an accepted business operation, that personal data were put at risk for marketing seems a poor data protection decision. Does a company really need Social Security numbers to market?  Why couldn’t other types of IDs been created or used?

And how was the drive stolen from the vendor? Was it left in an employee’s car? Was there a burglary at the repair firm? Did Futurity have a contract with this vendor that required certain security protections – and if so, were those protections implemented?

Business associates are a major source of data security risk in the healthcare sector. I hope that HHS investigates this breach.

Updated October 28: HHS’s breach tool lists additional entities affected by this breach, as I report elsewhere. But I note that they all report the date of loss as July 28 – not June 28 as reported in the media source above. So maybe the delay wasn’t as great as suggested by the media report.

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