UHW Trustees Working to Address Security Breach (update 1)

Statement of Dave Regan, Trustee of United Healthcare Workers West (UHW), regarding the recent disclosure of a security breach at UHW in July 2007 of 29,500 workers, resulting in credit and identity theft problems for 155 employees of Kaiser Permanente:

Last month, UHW was placed in trusteeship after an outside hearing officer confirmed a number of problems, financial and otherwise, occurring at the local. Upon further investigation, we discovered a pattern of irregularities and breaches of security protocols under the former leadership of the local. Among those breaches includes the July 2007 theft by a former UHW employee of information typically considered to be Kaiser Permanente employee personal data, including employee name, address, phone number, Social Security number and date of birth. No personal health or member related information was included in the breach.

“Upon learning of this incident in January 2009, the Trustees of UHW immediately notified the members that might have been affected by that breach of security. We have worked aggressively with law enforcement and Kaiser Permanente to identify the culprit and protect the members that were exposed.

Read more of the Press Release

The incident is not the first time Kaiser suffered a breach involving employee theft and misuse of data. In 2006, two contract employees were arrested on charges of stealing patient information and using it for fraudulent purposes. A number of cases of “new account” fraud were reported in that incident, too.

Update 1: Kaiser has apparently issued a press release, although I have not yet found the full text of the release. It is quoted in some mainstream California news sources, however. Sandy Kleffman of the Contra Costa Times reports that:

The theft came to light after the arrest of San Ramon resident Mia Garza, 28, on Dec. 23 on suspicion of possession of stolen property and forgery. In a confiscated computer, San Ramon police later found a file with the Kaiser employee data.

Garza was not a Kaiser employee and it is not clear how she obtained the information. No Kaiser-member health data has been compromised.

“We are continuing to work closely with local and federal law enforcement as they investigate potential suspects outside of Kaiser Permanente regarding this data breach,” said Gay Westfall, senior vice president of human resources for Kaiser.

Kaiser has offered to provide one year of free credit monitoring to affected employees.

Stan Oklobdzija of the Sacramento Bee adds that “About 6,000 of the 11,000 workers in Sacramento and Roseville area clinics and hospitals were affected, officials at Kaiser Permanente said.”

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