The hack affecting postal workers also involved medical/health data

One of the recurring themes on this blog has been that medical/health data deserves stringent protections, regardless of the type of entity that collects and retains the information.

We saw this again recently when we learned that Sony employees enrolled in Sony’s health plan had their information hacked and then exposed on the Internet by the hackers. A number of media reports and the public seemed somewhat shocked to consider that the corporation might have obligations under HIPAA.

In the Sony case, HIPAA protections did apply for the self-insured plan, but the medical and health information of current and former USPS postal workers who filed for workers’ compensation did not have those protections when their information was hacked. The USPS hack that involved Social Security numbers and payment information was disclosed in November, but now we are first learning that medical/health data  was also hacked.

Aliya Sternstein reports:

The agency does not face health data security fines or Health and Human Services Department breach notification violations, because the data was not part of an insurance plan.

About 485,000 employees, former employees and retirees whose medical details were potentially exposed received a notification letter last month, USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said.

The information potentially compromised was stored in “a file relating to injury compensation claims,” USPS Chief Human Resources Officer Jeffrey Williamson said in the letter dated Dec. 10. “In addition some of your medical information” associated with the claims may have been breached.

Read more on NextGov.

And so this blogger asks again: when will Congress wake up and address the gap in data security and privacy requirements for medical information held by different sectors? Why isn’t all sensitive health or medical information protected with the same level of protection regardless of who collects and stores it?


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